With the end of July drawing near, we are now just a little more than a month away from the arrival of the high-school football schedule.
Action will officially begin on Aug. 23-24 with the jamboree games. The next week, the regular season will kick off.
Here are the five biggest questions heading into the 2017 Ascension high-school football season:
Will Ascension Catholic return to the dome?
Last season was a special one for the Ascension Catholic Bulldogs as they steamrolled through the playoffs to reach their first state title game since 1992. Though, an unfortunate string of injuries to key starters derailed their chances to take home the Division-IV crown. After being so close, it’s safe to say the Bulldogs will be the hungriest team in Ascension this upcoming season. To go with that desire, they will be loaded once again. They will lose an All-State lineman in Charlie Gianelloni and an all-district linebacker in Bubba Gautreau, but virtually everyone else returns. This includes the best backfield in the parish with Jai Williams and Jamar Barber. The defense will also be stacked with players like Williams, Barber, Dillion Davis and Mason Zeringue.
Can K.J. Franklin duplicate what Jimel London did in 2017?
One of the most memorable things about the 2017 season was the performance of East Ascension’s do-everything player, Jimel London. As a cornerback, London picked off three passes. As a return specialist, he scored two touchdowns. On offense, he rushed for more than 900 yards and 12 scores. K.J. Franklin is remarkably similar to what London was at East Ascension. Franklin is also his team’s top cornerback on defense, he has been used effectively as a return man in the past and he will be used many ways offensively for the Gators this season. If St. Amant’s spring game was any indication, watch out for Franklin to make huge plays all year. In that scrimmage against Woodlawn, Franklin scored four touchdowns.
Can a parish team win District 5-5A again?
It was a fun 2017 for the three Ascension Parish teams in District 5-5A. Dutchtown turned things around as they improved from 3-7 to 6-4. St. Amant knocked off defending district champion Catholic on their way to another 9-1 campaign. Meanwhile, East Ascension made the jump from 3-6 to 8-2, and shared the league championship with archrival St. Amant. It will be interesting to see if those three teams can have the same kind of success in 2018, as they replace many of their biggest stars from last season. As the case every year, Catholic will head into the season as the favorite to win the district. Prior to last year, the Bears had won at least a share of the league title five seasons in a row. They will head into 2018 as the reigning Division-I state champions.
How will the many first-time starters at QB perform?
For a second straight season, we’ll see some new faces at starting quarterback within the parish. Donaldsonville’s Jaylen Williams was a two-year starter and all-district performer. With him gone, the Tigers will have either Joshua Collier or Treyvon Brown take over the vacant spot. In his only year as the starter, St. Amant’s Halen Miller was first-team all-district. Now, he must be replaced. Kaleb Thompson and Lathan Bourgeois will compete to be his successor. Dutchtown and Ascension Catholic both lose their week-one starters from 2017, but their replacements will not lack experience. The Bulldogs lost Bubba Gautreau to a broken hand at the end of the regular season. Backup John Mire stepped in and led them to the state title game. He’s now set for his first full season as a starter. The same thing happened at Dutchtown. Starter Ben Mays went down with an ankle injury at the end of the season. Drelone Monroe stepped in and played well, leading them to the second round of the playoffs. Monroe will now be the Griffins’ starting QB in his senior season.
Who will be this year’s leading rusher in the parish?
In 2017, there were three parish tailbacks that reached the 1,500-yard mark. Two of those runners are back in 2018; they both play for Ascension Catholic. It will be exciting to see how many yards junior Jai Williams and senior Jamar Barber chew up this season for the Bulldogs. Now with 1,600-yard rusher Cade Nelson gone, K.J. Franklin is expected to get more carries at St. Amant. With his speed and explosiveness, he has the opportunity to put up big yards. Also, East Ascension’s Nick Massey showed impressive flashes in 2017. Now with 900-yard rusher Jimel London graduated, he could get the bulk of the Spartans’ carries this season.