As good as it gets: No. 9 Green Devils fall to East Ascension on late score in back and forth season opener

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
Plaquemine's Davon Godchaux wraps up East Ascension's Kade Waguespack as Jalen Washington, Jaron Hooks, Damien Oubre and Malik Collins close in during the first quarter of the Spartans' 38-34 season opening victory on Friday night at Spartan Stadium. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

GONZALES - In a game filled with momentum swings and offensive fireworks, it was a special teams play that decided the difference in East Ascension’s 38-34 season opening victory over Plaquemine on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.

The 5A Spartans (1-0) withstood an early scoring flurry by Plaquemine, ranked No. 9 in the first LSWA Class 4A poll, that included long touchdowns on three of the Green Devils’ first four plays to tie the game 21-21 at halftime and take the lead late in the second half. But the Green Devils (0-1) weren’t finished driving 75 yards to regain the lead with 4:30 remaining setting up the dramatics.

East Ascension running back Sione “Boo” Palelei, an LSU commitment, muffed the ensuing kickoff before picking up the fumble at the 1-yard line and preceded to break away from defenders on the way to  the deciding 99-yard touchdown return.

“It is disheartening to give up the kickoff return at the end,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano  said. “We just have to do a better job. We have a very tough schedule this year but East Ascension is as good as anybody on it.

“We gave it our all tonight. It was an awesome effort. That didn’t cost us the game. We have to learn to give it our all everyday.”

The Green Devils outgained East Ascension in total yardage 520-387 with 390 of it coming on the ground. Plaquemine also ran more total offensive plays 62-56 but lost the turnover battle 3-2.

“Everything was there,” East Ascension coach Paul Bourgeois said. “It was a hard hitting game and had the taste of a rivalry. I don’t think we knew how good of a football team we brought in here. The biggest thing that we found out is that they had no quit about them.”

Plaquemine running back Julius Maracalin countered with 233 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 27 attempts. Maracalin also had two catches for 42 yards.

Green Devil quarterback D’Morea Wicks completed 7-of-13 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 53 yards on 10 touches.

Austin Mitchell had an 80-yard touchdown reception and Preston Russ had a 71-yard touchdown run.

“We got in a predicament personnel-wise,” Distefano said. “Our game plan was to keep our defense fresh, control the ball and keep their offense off the field. It was kind of difficult at first when we scored three out of the first four times but we will take those touchdowns anytime.”

Palelei, playing with a torn ligament in his knee, finished with 202 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. Joshua Walker added 43 yards and one touchdown on seven totes.

Spartan quarterback Layne Trahan completed 12-of-24 passes for 118 yards but was intercepted twice. Chad Hill had three rushes for 21 yards and one touchdown and two catches for 29 yards.

Plaquemine defensive lineman and four-star recruit Davon Godchaux injured his knee in the first quarter and didn’t return.

“It didn’t help losing him but that is no excuse,” Distefano said. “He is a great player but it is a team effort.”

Maracalin bounced to the outside for an 18-yard touchdown run to give the Green Devils the lead 34-31  capping a 13-play drive that  featured four third down conversions including a 21-yard completion from Wicks to Maracalin.

Palalei’s return quickly put the Spartans back ahead.

“He is something special and I think he showed it tonight,” Bourgeois said.

The Green Devils drove into East Ascension territory on their final series behind Wicks’ 30-yard scramble but fell inches short on fourth down.

Russ and Maracalin broke free the first time each touched the ball. The first came after Trevor Jones and Allen Riley each hit Palelei for losses on the Spartans’ opening possession.

Maracalin’s 80-yard gallop answered East Ascension’s ensuring 9-play drive capped by Palelei’s 2-yard burst. Austin LeJeune’s point after touchdown kick put Plaquemine ahead 14-7 with 6:43 left in the first quarter.

Mitchell floated under Wicks’ deep loft and dashed into the end zone two plays later to put the Green Devils ahead 21-7 still in the first quarter.

“I have never seen score that before,” Bourgeois said. “Scoring on your first four plays was very impressive to pull that off.”

East Ascension answered with a 6-play, 80-yard drive capped by Walker’s 10-yard run. Adam Bosworth’s kick cut it to 21-14 with 2:18 left in the quarter.

Chazz Edwards intercepted Trahan on the Spartans’ next series but Jaz Smith recovered a fumble on the ensuing possession for East Ascension.

Khalil Harris intercepted a tipped Trahan pass to halt another scoring threat but Smith recovered the subsequent fumble on the next play.

Hill’s 15-yard run capped the ensuing 6-play drive and Bosworth’s kick knotted it up 21-21 with 4:04 left in the first half.

Plaquemine drove to midfield on their next series but Bryan Blackmore recovered another fumble

Palalei’s 27-yard touchdown run capped East Ascension’s opening possession of the second half but Plaquemine answered with an epic 12-play, 80-yard to tie it 28-28 on Maracalin’s 1-yard burst with 1:15 left in the third quarter. Maracalin carried eight times on the drive including runs of 33, 24 and 14 yards and Wicks completed a 23-yard reception to Joseph “Joe” Keller to convert a fourth down.

Bosworth’s 32-yard field goal put East Ascension ahead 31-28 with 10:23 left to play. Harris and Jaron Hooks each had tackles for loss to force the kick attempt.

Plaquemine hosts rival 3A Brusly in their home opener on Friday night at Andrew Canova Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Green Devils 31-29 last season.