McKinley mounted a strong second-half comeback but couldn’t overcome a five-touchdown night by East Ascension running back Sione Palelei and fell to the Spartans 35-19 on Friday night at Panther Stadium
It was the District 5-5A opener for both teams.
“Man, you know we had a wakeup call last week (a home field loss to Denham Springs), and we just had to step it up,” Palelei said.
Playing both ways, Palelei totaled 108 yards on 14 rushes with three touchdowns and caught three passes for another 74 yards and two touchdowns.
When he was being spelled on offense, teammates Michael Sparrow (nine rushes for 62 yards) and T.J. Miles (five carries for 16) took up the slack.
“They (Sparrow and Miles) are hell of running backs,” Palelei said. “We had a lot of people step up to be leaders, and a lot of people to follow them.”
After a promising start, a 66-yard TD pass from Jarred Adams to Brandon Butler on their second offensive play of the night, the Panthers offense shut down, and they picked up only 44 yards the rest of the half.
“I don’t know if we ever had 11 around the ball defensively,” EAHS coach Paul Bourgeois said, “but I know I saw eight or nine sometimes.”
“We looked like a team that played the way I think we’re capable of playing. We were a pretty solid football team tonight. We’ll always take some passing yards, but when you see the way those guys were running tonight, it seemed pretty smart to keep feeding it to them.”
In the first half, McKinley (4-2, 0-1 in District 5-5A) had a 63-yard kickoff return by Phil Randall negated by a penalty and failed to capitalize on another return by Butler when Emmanuel Illedair came up just short on a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Another promising drive by the Panthers ended when they came up inches short on a fourth-and-5.
“I’m not mad; I’m just dumbfounded,” McKinley coach Robert Signater said. “We seemed to be like deer in the headlights tonight. We scored first, and then it seems like we shut it off. I really don’t know what it was.”
After a three-and-out on their first possession and
being apparently stopped on their second, East Ascension’s offense came to life on a 30-yard run by Devin Speligene on a fake punt. From there the Spartans turned to Palelei and he responded with four straight touchdowns on
runs of 8, 53 and 3 yards along with a 43-yard pass hookup with quarterback Layne Trahan.
East Ascension (3-3, 1-0) was driving again late in the half before an interception by Delwin Rodney ended the threat.
McKinley came to life at the start of the second half on a kickoff return to the 40. An 11-play touchdown drive was finished off on a fourth-down Adams to Butler touchdown pass.
Michael Sparrow answered for EAHS with a 78-yard kickoff return to the Panthers’ 13. From there Trahan threw a TD pass to Palelei for a 35-13 lead.
McKinley scored once more on a 15-yard pass from Travion Alexander to Braxton Harris. Butler was McKinley’s offensive leader with eight catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
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