In the first round of the Division I (Non-Select) playoffs, the #15 East Ascension Spartans (5-5) take on the #18 West Ouachita Chiefs (6-4) in Spartan Stadium with the winner of the game taking on the number two seed Neville Tigers, who are on a bye.
The Spartans had to go up against one of the toughest non-district schedules in the state this season facing teams like Zachary, West Monroe, Destrehan, Alexandria, and De La Salle. Throughout that treacherous stretch, East Ascension had a 1-4 start, but when district play happened, the Spartans, led by head coach Darnell Lee, really picked the pace up going 4-1 in the second half of the regular season. Although the team dropped its last regular season game of the year against arch rival Dutchtown, East Ascension came into this playoff game playing some of its best football.
The West Ouachita Chiefs have had a rollercoaster of a season, but all in all, the Chiefs finally made the playoffs for the first time since 2019. After starting out the gate strong jumping out to a 4-0 record, the Chiefs proceeded to lose four straight games before ending the regular season on a high note defeating Pineville and then Alexandria 58-57 in overtime.
With both teams entering the matchup playing with some confidence, it certainly led to a great playoff atmosphere in Spartan Stadium.
West Ouachita had the ball first and was on a nice opening drive. On the first play, quarterback Samuel Ozark hit senior wide receiver Seth Clampit for a ten yard reception followed by a 13 yard pass completion to Brayden Owens and than a 17 yard run by Clampit.
It was a good start to the game, but as quickly as the drive started, it ended when the Chiefs fumbled the football and Wast Ascension gets its first turnover of the game.
The turnover gave the Spartans ‘ good momentum. On the seventh play of the drive, senior quarterback Jaylon Lee connects with junior wide receiver Brennon Thompson for a 45 yard gain. Despite the big gain, the Chiefs defense would hold the Spartans’ offense out of the end zone when Eli Broussard sacks Lee for a eight yard loss. The sack would force the Spartans to kick a field goal and Diego Ontiveros makes it to give the team an early 3-0 advantage.
The Spartans would get the ball back and get great field position as West Ouachita had a low snap on fourth down and East Ascension recovers in prime scoring position.
Despite the mistakes, West Ouachita would hold again forcing another East Ascension field goal after going three and out. Once again, the Spartans do get points off the turnover with Ontiveros making his second field goal of the game to give East Ascension a 6-0 lead.
After a three and out forced by the Spartans defense, it looked like the offense was marching on an impressive drive going down the field 52 yards highlighted by a 13 yard pass from Lee to Antwone Foster, and a 16 yard run from Foster, but the Chiefs’ defense stands tall again when senior defensive end Alan Dean stops Foster on fourth down and two at West Ouachita’s six yard line.
However, West Ouachita would turn the football over for the third time in four drives and the third time proved to be the most costly for the Chiefs as Ozark fumbles in the end zone caused by East Ascension senior linebacker Joshua Berfect while his senior counterpart defensive lineman Sidney Joseph pounces on the football to score the Spartans’ first touchdown. East Ascension extends its lead at 13-0.
The Spartans force another Chiefs punt and gets the ball back hoping to score a touchdown on offense. East Ascension does add to the scoreboard offensively by going into their back of tricks scoring on a pass from Antwone Foster as he was getting a handoff from Lee to a wide open Jackson Chiasson for a 64 yard touchdown. East Ascension adds to its lead at 20-0.
On the next drive, West Ouachita runs the rest of the clock out and both teams head off the field for halftime. After the first 24 minutes of action, the East Ascension Spartans lead the West Ouachita Chiefs 20-0.
After a first half full of turnovers, East Ascension turns the football over for the first time as Lee is intercepted by West Ouachita defensive back Kevin Haper.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the offense cannot capitalize off of the turnover and goes three and out punting the football back to the Spartans. After Jaylon Lee goes down with an injury, Antwone Foster comes in at quarterback and immediately makes an impact as the guy connecting with senior receiver Zhavier Jupiter for the first down on a 13 yard pickup. After a couple of more plays, Ontiveros lines up for his third field goal attempt and for the third consecutive time, the senior kicker nails his field goal attempt to give his team a 23-0 lead.
On the next West Ouachita possession, the Chiefs turn the football over for the fourth time when Ozark threw an interception to Spartans sophomore defensive back D’Ron McZeal.
East Ascension star running back and Tulane commit Walter Samuel then wowed the home crowd when he did his Najee Harris impersonation leaping over a West Ouachita defender for one of the best six yard pickups that you will see. On the very next play, Antwone Foster showed what he can do as a runner pin balling off of Chiefs defenders and staying on his feet tightroping down the sidelines for a 27 yard touchdown run to put the Spartans in command at 30-0.
Down 30-0, West Ouachita desperately tries to get something going by running a hook and ladder, but the Spartans do what they have done all night and that is force a turnover. A hit by Joshua Berfect popped the football up in the air where his teammate Lamar Bolden Jr. was able to catch it and secure the Spartans another possession for the fifth time.
The turnover put the Spartans at the Chiefs’ 29 yard line and it would only take two plays for the Spartans to continue running away with the lead. Walter Samuel has another highlight reel run when he stiff armed a Chiefs defender to pick up 25 yards. All the tough running by the Green Wave commit paid off as he found pay dirt for the Spartans to put East Ascension up 37-0.
The turnover bug continued to plague the Chiefs as they suffer their third consecutive turnover and their sixth overall.
Throughout the rest of the game, both teams will exchange possessions as East Ascension pitches the 37-0 shutout and advances to the second round of the Division I (Non-Select) Playoffs.
The East Ascension Spartans improve to 6-5 on the season and as the number 15 seed in the playoffs, will make the travel next week to take on the number two seed Neville Tigers.
The West Ouachita Chiefs had a great season making the playoffs for the first time since 2019 and finished their season at 6-5.
Check out my postgame interview with East Ascension head coach Darnell Lee after the Spartans’ first round playoff victory.
QB Samuel Ozark: 4 of 8 for 29 yards and 1 INT
RB Antonio Ford: 13 carries for 46 yards
RB Peyton Freer: 7 carries for 30 yards and a fumble
QB Samuel Ozark: 6 carries for 4 yards and a fumble
WR Seth Clampit: 1 carry for 17 yards
WR Seth Clampit: 3 catches for 26 yards
WR Brayden Owens: 1 catch for 13 yards
QB Jaylon Lee: 8 of 16 for 96 yards and 1 INT
QB/RB Antwone Foster: 2 of 5 for 85 yards and 1 TD
QB Cort Delatte: 2 of 2 for 13 yards
RB Walter Samuel: 12 carries for 96 yards and 1 TD
QB/RB Antwone Foster: 10 carries for 73 yards and 1 TD
WR Brennon Thompson: 2 catches for 51 yards
WR Zhavier Jupiter: 4 catches for 56 yards
WR Jackson Chiasson: 1 catch for 64 yards and 1 TD
QB/RB Antwone Foster: 2 catches for 31 yards
RB Walter Samuel: 1 catch for -3 yards
K Diego Ontiveros: 3 of 4 field goals and 3 of 3 extra point attempts