Last Saturday, I took another visit to see the Denham Springs Yellow Jackets, but this time, to get a good look at their district rivals in the East Ascension Spartans. It is an unique perspective to see two teams that will battle each other for a district championship meet up before the season.
“We’ve always hooked up in the spring back when Coach Beard was at Live Oak. When he went to Denham, I was wondering if he wanted to keep it and I said why not. It’s going to be a physical contest and to try and build physicality in his guys. At the same token, we do the same so it’s a pretty physical game.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
Both teams got a lot of work in and were pleased with their performances, especially Spartans Head Coach Darnell Lee as his Spartans got the better of the Yellow Jackets in a 14-7 victory in the spring game.
“I felt that we got better this spring. We played really physical in between the tackles. Our two starting defensive ends were out, but we gave some youngsters some opportunities and they played really well. I just love running the football and if we can run the football well between the tackles like that, then that is a beautiful thing.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
The spring game began with both teams getting a scripted set of plays while getting their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings all a lot of reps at the beginning. Then, the spring game ended with both 1st teams playing half a game, which resulted with East Ascension getting the 14-7 advantage.
The biggest key to the victory for the Spartans is what Coach Lee said earlier, which was their ability to run in between the tackles behind their big offensive line. The Spartans played ball control having three drives with at least eight plays including two of those drives for touchdowns.
The offense leaned on their running game a whole lot led by their leading rusher Tajh Washington, who had 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown run in the scrimmage. Coach Lee is excited about the 6’0, 215 pound bruising back that is making the transition to running back after helping open up holes for Tulane signee Walter Samuel.
“Our lead blocker last year was Tajh Washington. We gave him an opportunity to be our featured back and we have a couple of youngsters behind him that can play. He knows the offense and where to hit the holes. He is a physical runner at 230 pounds. We have a defensive tackle named Caleb Davis that plays fullback. We use him as a sniffer and he is 250 pounds. Add that to the beef that we got up front and we are going to be a physical team.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
The offense evolves around an offensive line that may have been inexperienced last season but should be one of the best in the area this season led by LT Brysen Martinez, who is already 6’6, 290 pounds and athletic, Aiden Joseph, who had moved from center to guard and brings nastiness to the offensive line, and big offensive guard Kelvin Gray just to name a few. Although the offense is focused on running the football, the offense has showed that they could throw the ball if needed as sophomore QB Hudson Browning completed 2 of 3 passes for 26 yards and the game winning touchdown to Jackson Chiasson.
“We gave Hudson Browning the nod at quarterback and he came out and did well. He showed some good leadership skills. Again, we rode the ground game, but we do have receivers that can play. Jackson Chiasson and Jacorey Mitchell are returning starters and we expect some great things out of Kobe Louis, who is 6’1, 195. Even though those guys are going to have to block for us, they can still go out and make big plays.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
On the defensive side of the football, the Spartans did a great job of limiting an explosive Denham Springs offense led by a talented quarterback in Jerry Horne, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in the scrimmage. The defense clinched the victory stopping the Yellow Jackets offense and forcing a turnover on downs with just over a minute left to play in the game.
“We are in the 4-2-5 defense and it is a bend, but don’t break defense. We only gave up two runs over 10 yards the whole day. Our defense did a good job at keeping them at bay They put their big safety over at receiver and he made a play on a jump ball, but you have to make adjustments and I feel like we did that. It is still early. Both teams are going to be a lot better when we meet in the regular season.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of things to be pleased with about Denham Springs. In the second quarter, Horne really got in a rhythm and led a nice touchdown drive where he found his star two way player Maison Vorise five times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Also, LSU safety commit Da’Shawn McBryde also put on a show for the fans on both sides of the football as he had the biggest highlight of the day catching a jump ball for a big play and then also getting an interception on defense before the live scrimmage. When #6 and #7 get in the ball game, there is no doubt that the Yellow Jackets always have a chance of making a big play.
Meanwhile, for the Spartans, they will have once again a challenging non-district schedule before hitting district play in the fall so heading into the summer, Coach Lee just wants his players to continue the positive momentum they set up from the scrimmage.
“We just need to focus on the details. Everybody tells us about second round jinx, but we shot ourselves in the foot during the regular season where we had opportunities to win games and we don’t pull out the victory. Then, we would have to play a team like Zachary or Neville in the second round. If you take care of business in the regular season, then you are not playing those guys. You control your own destiny and with the schedule we have, if we can get some wins early on and have a strong showing in district, then, we should be sitting pretty good. We have to make the most of our opportunities one week at a time.”East Ascension Head Coach Darnell Lee
Check out some of our recent Gridiron Football Spring Tour Trips below!
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