East Ascension cracks 5A football poll

Advocate staff photo by BRIANNA PACIORKA -- East Ascension defensive back Malik Anderson (28) intercepts a pass intended for St. Charles Catholic tight end Zach Maurin (88) during the Spartans' game against the Comets on Friday. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRIANNA PACIORKA -- East Ascension defensive back Malik Anderson (28) intercepts a pass intended for St. Charles Catholic tight end Zach Maurin (88) during the Spartans' game against the Comets on Friday.

Much was expected of Catholic High this season after coach Dale Weiner’s team reached the Class 5A quarterfinals in 2012 and returned loads of talent for an encore. The Bears have not disappointed in racing to a 3-0 start behind three impressive wins.

A bit to the south, East Ascension has been one of the area’s pleasant surprises.

The Spartans have matched the 3-0 start of their perennially stout District 5-5A rival, and this week joins Catholic in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association prep rankings released Monday. EA debuts at No. 9 in the 5A poll with Catholic moving up one spot to No. 4.

“Anytime the state gives your team and program recognition, I think it’s exciting for us,” third-year EA coach Paul Bourgeois said. “We’ll take it. I’m going to announce it to the team this afternoon. I think it’s going to be exciting just for them to know they’re one of those teams now.”

Other teams from the Baton Rouge area in the rankings this week include Plaquemine, which moved up three spots to seventh in the 4A poll; University, Livonia and Parkview Baptist, which remained third, sixth and ninth, respectively, in 3A; Springfield, up one spot to No. 9 in 2A; and White Castle, which moved up two spots to No. 7 in the 1A poll.

East Ascension went 4-6 last season and missed the 5A playoffs but stayed unbeaten with a 42-19 rout of St. Charles Catholic on Friday night.

The Spartans have scored 38 or more points in all three of their wins.

Even before beginning the season strong, EA had the state’s attention after senior running back Sione Palelei became the school’s first LSU commitment since Glenn Dorsey.

Palelei had a monster night against St. Charles, carrying seven times for 165 yards and two touchdowns and catching four passes for 154 yards and two more scores. Also, the 5-foot-9, 200-pound dynamo returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.

Bourgeois said the kickoff return wrapped all of Palelei’s attributes — speed, strength, vision, quickness — into one highlight-reel play.

“If you haven’t seen him, you better get out and watch him,” Bourgeois said.

Figuring a way to slow Palelei and the Spartans is sure to provide a test for Catholic when the pair of 5-5A unbeatens meet Nov. 8 in Gonzales to close the regular season.

But the Bears have passed every test thus far, overcoming key injuries in the process.

Their own star running back Derrius Guice is expected back in the lineup after sitting out last week’s 34-0 blanking of Denham Springs with a deep thigh bruise. All-district defensive back Matthew Moreau (knee) won’t return until later this season.

“Our injuries have kind of mounted, but we always talk to our guys about having confidence in the next guy in,” Weiner said. “You take advantage of your opportunity to help the team. I’m so pleased with how we’ve had guys step up.”

Catholic and EA have more in common this week than their state rankings. Both hit the road to play Saturday games against opponents from the Catholic League.

EA faces Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium in a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Catholic meets No. 10 Rummel at 7 p.m. at Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie.