For Ascension Catholic, it's been there, done that. In 2018, they don't want to just make it to the dome, they want to leave hoisting the Division-IV state championship trophy.

Heading into every year, teams want to make it to the Superdome.

For Ascension Catholic, it’s been there, done that. In 2018, they don’t want to just make it to the dome, they want to leave hoisting the Division-IV state championship trophy.

The ending to last season was bittersweet for the Bulldogs.

They finished the regular season 8-2, outscored their opponents 119-28 in the playoffs and reached the state title game for the first time since 1992.

Unfortunately, a team that had been blessed with luck and relative good health all season saw both go awry in just a two-day span.

The day before the state title game, 1,600-yard rusher Jamar Barber and his younger brother Dorian (third-leading rusher on the team) were both injured in a car accident. Fortunately, the injuries were not serious, but they were bad enough to sideline them for the big game.

Once the championship began, the Bulldogs’ other 1,600-yard rusher, Jai Williams was off to a great start. He had 87 yards rushing before the half, until a hard hit sidelined him for the rest of the game with a concussion.

Also, starting safety Brock Acosta’s night ended early with an injured shoulder, and fellow safety and running back Mason Zeringue was also forced to sit out when he broke a finger.

At one point, the Bulldogs were without six starters. Still, late in the fourth quarter, they only trailed Lafayette Christian by a score of 3-0.

Eventually, they fell, 10-0.

It was a heartbreaking way to end what had been a special season for Ascension Catholic, but it will now serve as fuel for a 2018 Bulldog squad that is absolutely loaded.

The Bulldogs return 18 starters this season.

They did lose two important leaders. Charlie Gianelloni was an All-State defensive lineman, and Bubba Gautreau was their starting quarterback and middle linebacker.

But though they lose their 2017 QB, the new starter will not be totally green.

John Mire actually started the Bulldogs’ final five games of the season—including the state championship—after Gautreau broke his hand. Ascension Catholic won all but one of those games.

In all, the Bulldogs will bring back 10 players that were either first or second-team All-District 6-1A selections from last season.

The offensive line will be highlighted by Dillion Davis and rising junior Nick Hilliard. Hilliard—a 6-foot-3, 290-pound tackle--has been receiving scholarship offers in bunches over the summer.

Behind that offensive line, the Bulldogs will bring back the best backfield in the parish, and arguably the best in the state.

It contains the duo of Williams and Barber. They combined for 3,271 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017.

Dorian Barber will also return as a solid third option.

Ascension Catholic doesn’t pass much, but when they do, they’ll have two of their top receivers back in Tre’ Medine and Rodney Blanchard. Blanchard is also one of the top punters in the area.

Defensively, Davis will anchor the defensive line. The 270-pounder was last year’s Ascension Parish Defensive MVP as he piled up 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Like Hilliard, Davis has received plenty of attention from college scouts.

Other returning all-district players from the front seven will include defensive end John Broussard and linebackers Williams and Parker Hales.

Their entire secondary returns. This includes a first-team all-district safety in Zeringue, as well as Acosta, Blanchard, Barber and Eric Simon, Jr.

Still, the Bulldogs will have to find a way to get past Southern Lab in district and in the Division-IV playoffs.

The Kittens have beaten them every year since they’ve been league counterparts—including last season.

Southern Lab was banned from postseason play last year, but in 2018, they’ll be eligible again. This means the Bulldogs will most likely have to go through the Kittens to take home the elusive state crown.

The potential is there for Ascension Catholic.

“We are a very senior and junior-heavy team,” Bulldog head coach Drey Trosclair said. “We return tons of experience from a state runner-up team. In 2018, we definitely have the ability to be a very special team, as long as we stay focused on our goals and go to work and continue to get better and progress every day. We have championship aspirations and feel as though we should be in the conversation as one of the best teams in Division-IV football.”