Last week, the biggest stars in Hollywood and in sports collided for the ESPY Awards to honor the great achievements of college and professional athletes.
After last year’s ceremony, I decided to use some of the same categories used at the ESPY’s to celebrate the feats of Ascension Parish standouts. Well, I thought I’d do it again in 2018.
The first award is for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. I will go with Ascension Catholic sophomore Jai Williams.
Williams had a very good freshman campaign, running for more than 700 yards, but I don’t think anyone imagined him having the kind of season he had in 2017.
Despite sharing the backfield wth a 1,500-yard rusher in Jamar Barber, Williams still exploded for more than 1,600 yards and better than 20 touchdowns.
On defense, Williams was a starting linebacker. He made All-State in both capacities.
His performance helped lead the Bulldogs to their first state title appearance in 25 years. Williams had 87 yards rushing in the first half of the championship game, until a concussion ended his night.
We’ll stay with Ascension Catholic for Best Game. That goes to the Bulldogs’ 4-3 victory over St. John in the Division-IV state title game.
The Bulldogs met the Eagles for the third time that year. They lost the two regular-season matchups. In fact, they had lost four straight against St. John dating back to 2017.
Ascension Catholic fell down 2-0 in the first. That deficit carried over until the sixth inning, when the Bulldogs finally got things going offensively.
In the top of the seventh, Rodney Blanchard came up with a huge RBI single that scored William Dunn to give Ascension Catholic a 4-3 lead, and eventually the program’s first state title since 1994.
I’d give the nod for Best Coach to East Ascension girl’s basketball coach Dennis Chandler.
Despite his team being without their best player Alynzia Morris (last year’s District 5-5A MVP) for most of the season—including the playoffs—the Lady Spartans never shuddered.
They cruised through the regular season with a 19-2 record, and in the playoffs, they proved that they were the class of 5A.
East Ascension upset No. 1 Barbe in the quarterfinals, trounced No. 5 Zachary in the semifinals and beat seventh-seeded Natchitoches Central in the title game to win the program its first ever state championship.
Best Comeback Athlete is a little different this year.
St. Amant defensive lineman Johnny Johnson didn’t have to fight through any kind of injury; he had to endure the toughest loss a young athlete can imagine.
Johnson lost his father to cancer during the season. With a heavy heart, he made his dad proud with one of the best defensive performances in the area.
Johnson went on to record 73 tackles and 13 sacks. He was first-team all-district as he helped lead the Gators to a share of the District 5-5A championship.
Best Female Athlete goes to Dutchtown track star Leah Scott. The senior concluded her prep career with state titles in both the long jump and the triple jump. It upped her career total to eight.
In addition to being named the state’s Outstanding Field Performer, the Louisiana Tech commit was also named the 2017-18 Gatorade Louisiana Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
East Ascension’s Jimel London gets my vote for the Best Male Athlete.
London was a first-team all-district player in both football and basketball. In basketball, he was the Ascension Parish MVP.
His football season was as memorable as they come as he intercepted three passes on defense, scored two touchdowns on special teams and rushed for more than 900 yards and 12 touchdowns on offense.
We go back to the Division-IV baseball state title game for Best Moment.
It was such a treat to see the Bulldogs dog-piling in the infield as they won their first championship in 24 years.
Best Upset goes to the Dutchtown Griffin baseball team.
Dutchtown was a big underdog in the second round of the playoffs as they hit the road to face seventh-seeded Northshore in a best-of-three series.
Northshore had only lost three games all season. Well, the Griffins bested them in back-to-back days to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
For Best Team, I’m going with the Gauthier & Amedee American Legion squad.
The Wombats were nearly unbeatable all summer, reeling off a superb 32-3 record and a dominating 9-1 victory in the state title game. It was the franchise’s first state championship in five years.
Twenty-three of the team’s 32 victories were by at least five runs.
And Gauthier & Amedee isn’t done just yet. If they can win next week’s American Legion Mid-South Regional in New Orleans, they’ll reach the World Series.