Ascension Christian is coming off of their first losing season in four years, but that doesn't mean they're not optimistic about 2019. Quite the contrary.

Ascension Christian is coming off of their first losing season in four years, but that doesn't mean they're not optimistic about 2019. Quite the contrary.

The Lions return 13 starters from last year's team, including their record-breaking quarterback. Around him will be what head coach Josh Puryear sees as the best collection of skill-players Ascension Christian has had since he's been their head coach.

If that wasn't enough to raise the excitement level amongst the players, there is the added motivation of having the opportunity to win district.

The Lions have not played a full district schedule since 2014. That changes this season as they become a full-time participant in District 7-1A.

They'll play four league games, which includes a Nov. 1 encounter against parish foe Ascension Catholic. The two teams haven't met in three years.

And now with the Lions playing a true district schedule, their players will finally be eligible to make the all-district team at the end of the season.

When it comes to the field, Ascension Christian returns an All-Parish quarterback in Zach Diez. Last season, Diez broke the school's single-season passing record with 3,067 yards. He also tied the school record for most single-season touchdown passes with 30.

"We are expecting big things from him this year," Puryear said. "He has a year of experience under his belt going into his junior year. He is a lot more confident in both his abilities, as well as what we want to accomplish offensively."

The Lions will lose a first-team All-Parish receiver in Tyler Cambre. Cambre made 86 catches for 1,692 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. All three statistics set new single-season school records.

However, Ascension Christian returns a receiving duo in Derrick Varnado and Nathan Bledsoe that combined for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018.

Another big returning piece for the Lions will be running back Brady Gueho, who missed virtually all of last year. He will be tasked with trying to improve a Lion rushing attack that averaged just 23 yards per game in 2018.

"We are expecting Derrick Varnado and Brady Gueho to have breakout seasons," Puryear said. "They both have had great summers. Derrick has really improved on his route-running and catching ability. Brady was hurt last year, but he is the center of our team and someone we are looking to that will help carry the load in the backfield, but also catch the ball in the slot."

Byron Hansley and Jaiden Barton will help provide depth at running back. Aiden LeBlanc and Emory Templet will provide depth to the receiving corps.

"Emory Templet is a tall kid (6-foot-2) that plays outside receiver. He is a mismatch for most smaller corners and is improving in his ball skills," Puryear said.

Both Hayden Cashat and Elijah Huber are first-year starters in the trenches that Coach Puryear said will make big impacts for the Lions.

"I believe we have a committed group this year," Puryear said. "This group has had a great summer, and I believe they are going to relish the opportunity to compete in district and have the ability to earn district honors."

One of the biggest attributes of Ascension Christian's team in 2019 will be their senior leadership. They have 11 seniors on this year's roster.

"I'm excited about what is to come this year," Puryear said. "I really believe this will be a special season for our guys. They've put in the work and are ready to compete."