GONZALES — The late-game drama between Dutchtown and East Ascension high schools reached a climax in the final two minutes of play. The homestanding Spartans stood 1½ yards away from a game-winning touchdown and upset of their Ascension Parish rival.
Two straight timeouts from East Ascension only heightened the moment when running back Michael Sparrow was swarmed under by the left side of Dutchtown’s defense on fourth-and-goal for no gain, sealing the No. 6 Griffins’ 20-14 victory in District 5-5A play Friday at Spartan Stadium.
“It came down to one play, and our guys made it,” Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said. “They make it, they win. We made it, we won. I thought our defensive coaches and our defense did a great job.”
The heart-stopping turn of events enabled Dutchtown (5-1, 2-0 in 5-5A) to register its sixth straight win over East Ascension, and more importantly helped the Griffins remain in a tie for the league lead with Catholic High.
Dutchtown, which had two first downs in the second half, erased a 14-10 third-quarter deficit with a 10 unaswered points early in the fourth quarter with running back Corey McBride (3 carries for 91 yards) slipping out of a pair of tackles after a reverse pitch and scoring on an 85-yard run with 10:54 left in the game.
Defensive back Justin Sampson gave the Griffins the ball back two plays later with an interception and 9-yard return to EA’s 22. That led to a 22-yard field goal from Tyler Sarrazin to go along with a 32-yard effort in the first quarter.
“I thought we won two of the three phases of the game,” said Saia, whose team had a 283-258 edge in total offense. “My hat’s off to East Ascension. I thought they played their hearts out and have a very good football team. We’re very happy to get out of here with a win.”
East Ascension, which led 14-10 on Sione Palelei’s 1-yard run, had to play the last 10 minutes without its leading rusher, who went to the sideline with leg cramps. He paced the Spartans with 24 carries for 81 yards and both of his team’s touchdowns.
Regardless, EA was able to put together a 16-play, 79-yard drive that consumed a little more than seven minutes.
Sparrow’s 2-yard gain on fourth-and-2 helped keep the Spartans’ hopes alive, which included a pair of first downs that carried them to the Griffins’ 9-yard line.
Following a 1-yard loss and two straight pre-snap penalties that forced EA into first-and-goal from 20, quarterback Layne Trahan (16 of 22 for 106 yards) completed two straight passes for 8 yards, and the Spartans reached the 5 following a helmet-to-helmet penalty that still left them with third down.
Sparrow gained four yards on the next play before getting stopped on EA’s final play, allowing Dutchtown to run out the final 1:34 of the game.
“Their effort, the way they played hard, is about all a high school football team could do,” EA coach Paul Bourgeois said. “I felt like we were in charge of the game. I couldn’t quite feel we were going to win, but I also felt we were in charge of the second half.”
Dutchtown was primed to add to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Mason Nickens lost the handle on a first-and-goal carry and defensive lineman Ta’Jhay Russell recovered at the Spartans’ 11.
Palelei’s 6-yard TD run finished an impressive 11-play, 89-yard drive involving a nice run-pass blend, mixed with some deception, and left EA trailing 10-7 at halftime.
Dutchtown took a 10-0 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the opening quarter on Sarrazin’s 32-yard field goal and the Griffins special teams got into the scoring act again when Torrance Mosley returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown.
“A lot of teams with the reputation of Dutchtown would have laid down and thought, ‘here we go again’,” Bourgeois said. “I felt on the sideline that it didn’t put any fear in our kids and showed the maturity of our team.”