Even in a pandemic year, East Ascension-St. Amant rivalry remains special for McCorkle family

Stories of how the St. Amant-East Ascension football rivalry bridges generations and families are not new. But the McCorkle family’s story provides a notable chapter.

“This will hopefully be the first time I’ll be able to finish a game against EA on the varsity level,” St. Amant linebacker Sam McCorkle said. “It was beyond my control, but having to leave the game last year in the first quarter was disappointing.”

Not to mention scary for McCorkle’s parents, Chip and Traci, who also is the East Ascension principal. Their story is special, even by COVID-19 and rivalry standards. East Ascension (3-3, 1-1) travels to The Pit to meet St. Amant (4-1, 1-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday in a District 5-5A game that closes the regular season.

The sight of the principal from the rival school riding off to the hospital with a player is rare. But it happened last when Sam McCorkle left the 2019 EA-St. Amant game with a rapid heartbeat that was elevated to 300 beats per minute at one point.

Fast-forward a year later from the last EAHS-St. Amant game, months past Sam McCorkle’s corrective surgery and a two-week COVID-19 quarantine for the Gators. Even with all that, the McCorkles are thankful.

“It was scary, but the way it happened — at a game where paramedics had him hooked up to equipment that measured his heart rate — helped with the diagnosis,” Traci McCorkle said. “The cardiologist told us that this was the one heart ailment you can absolutely fix.”

Sam McCorkle was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare birth defect in which there is an extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior resumed training a week after the surgery and is one of the Gators’ team captains.

Like many families, the McCorkles have roots on both sides of the Ascension rivalry. Traci McCorkle is a 1989 St. Amant graduate, whose parents graduated from East Ascension. She started her education career at St. Amant, moved to East Ascension as an administrator and has been principal there for 11 years.

“This year is so different. We don’t have the shout-out or other activities we normally have because of COVID,” Traci McCorkle said. “The rivalry for this game is so much about families and the communities.

“So many people have ties to both schools. Sam is the caboose and both our boys wandered the halls at EA with me for years. (Sam) is a Gator now, and I have been a Spartan for a while now. That’s our family.”

Traci McCorkle offered thanks to St. Amant for providing two tickets for each EAHS football player and cheerleader. Like other games, there will be no EAHS student section because of the COVID-19 attendance limits. McCorkle said she has heard that students plan to watch on a large flat screen placed in an open field.

“I am so glad the teams get to play, and I am so happy for Sam. These are memories the seniors will remember 20 or 30 years from now. They will be different, but they will talk about this year and how different it was.”

Some things, like a few friendly pregame barbs, remain in place at the McCorkle house.

“We’re pretty easy going about it, but my dad and I still take a few shots at her,” Sam McCorkle added. “She is a good sport about it. But we do have fun with it.”

East Ascension vs. St. Amant

5 p.m. Saturday at The Pit, St. Amant Middle School

RECORDS: East Ascension 3-3, 1-1; St. Amant 4-1, 1-1

LAST WEEK: East Ascension beat McKinley 44-0; St. Amant did not play

PLAYERS TO WATCH: EAST ASCENSION: RB Kendall Washington, ATH Kael Babin, QB Troy Dunn, LB Rionte Jones, DE Jerrell Boykins Jr.; ST. AMANT: RB Juantaz Paul, LB Jay Melancon, DE Dylan Carpenter, KR DeAndre Taylor.

NOTEWORTHY: One of the Baton Rouge area’s most celebrated rivalries has a new look with fewer fans. … It also is St. Amant’s first game after two weeks out with COVID-19 issues. … St. Amant’s Cole Poirrier ranks among area passing leaders with 1,089 yards and 13 TDs, while EA’s Troy Dunn has passed for 816 yards and eight TDs.

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