GONZALES — For a game on a wet field with a total of one first down in the first quarter and a total of 16 punts in the game, the East Ascension-Denham Springs game at Spartan Stadium turned into an absolute thriller at the end.
Denham Springs (3-2) came from behind to take the lead, recovered a fumble at their 4-yard line to stop a final drive, and escaped with a 27-20 road win.
“It was a team win,” Denham Springs coach Dru Nettles said. “Everybody did a great job,” and the scoring rundown proved Nettle’s point.
The Yellow Jackets scored by the pass, two long runs and a defensive fumble recovery. Their defense kept the game within reach through a first half played without leading rusher Kaleb Blanchard.
“It was a coaching thing,” Nettles said. “He had some stuff he had to take care of this week. But other guys stepped in there, and he came back to finish the game.
“We hung in there, and I couldn’t be prouder of our defense against some great athletes. They played a great first half against a fine team. We gave them a kickoff return, and they got one there at the end, but East Ascension has a fine team.”
Blanchard scored on a 67-yard run in the second half after his quarterback, Zach Borne, carried for a 59-yard TD.
Blanchard finished the game with 97 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Borne rushed 9 times for 72 yards.
Sione Palelei picked up 151 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries for East Ascension (2-3).
The Yellow Jackets got what proved to be the winning touchdown when Garrett Osborne ran 19 yards on a scoop-and-score fumble recovery when EA running back Palelei lost control of a pitchout.
Palelei put the Spartans up 20-13 with a 4-yard run before Blanchard’s long run tied the game.
EA mounted a comeback drive in the final three minutes, moving to the Denham Springs 14 on a 19-yard pass from Layne Trahan to Jarred Adams. Palelei carried inside the one on the next play, then was ruled to have fumbled on a call that aroused the Spartans’ coaching staff and fans who thought he was down before the ball came out.
EA coach Paul Bourgeois called it one of the toughest losses he can remember.
“Just the way it went, all the up and down, and we did everything to have a chance and then have it pulled from us, the way it ended makes it one of the worst,” he said. “I told (the Spartans) I’m proud of them, and I think we got back the ability to play the way we can.”
The first half was a statistical nightmare for both teams. They combined for zero points, one first down, and seven punts in the first quarter.
Denham Springs got on the scoreboard early in the second after they recovered a muffed punt on the EA 22.
They cashed in the break when Borne found Sterling Suggs on a fade route for a 21-yard TD pass, but a low snap led to a blocked PAT attempt.
The Spartans quickly answered that score on a 90-yard kickoff return by Michael Sparrow who found a seam up the middle and outran the final pursuers defenders.
Mason Decoteau’s extra point kick was wide and the score remained 6-6 until the final drive of the half.
East Ascension took over on their 30 and got a quick 11-yard burst by Sparrow and then turned to junior running back Palelei who added runs of 17 and 13 yards before getting to final 14 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on a pitch-and-run backward pass from Layne Trahan.
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