Bulldogs hungry to make it to postseason after absence
DONALDSONVILLE – Ascension Catholic just missed the playoffs the last two years but the Bulldogs feature more than 10 seniors this season hungry for the first postseason run of their careers.
“This year, we are looking to be better than we were last year,” Ascension Catholic head coach Rick Bolotte said. “We had a few kids that we graduated but we only lose five starters. A lot of kids go both ways but the kids know what to expect of me and I know what to expect of them. We have a tougher schedule this year so I just hope that we can carry out a good season.”
Ascension Catholic finished 4-5 last season in Bolotte’s second season at the helm after winning five of their first six games before having to forfeit a victory. The Bulldogs lost the final three and finished third in District 9-1A with a 2-2 mark. The mentality at the school of many players going both ways will have to continue this season as the Bulldogs add Class 1A runner-up Christian Life and Class 2A quarterfinalist St. John into the new 8-1A district.
“We have a lot more players this year but we still are going to need a bunch to go both ways,” Bolotte said. “I am looking at about four or five guys going both ways. We are going to have a pretty big line on both sides of the ball that will average 250 pounds but our weakness is speed. We have no team speed.”
OFFENSE – The Bulldogs will continue to run a multiple offense in 2009 and return eight starters to an offense that rushed for 1,400 yards and passed for another 900.
“We run a spread offense and will run out of the I a lot,” Bolotte said. “We will try to mix it up a little bit more this year. Last year, we were a running team and threw when we had to. This year, we are going to set up the run with the pass.”
Senior left-hander Charles Caballero takes over the reigns at quarterback after the departure of first-team all-district quarterback Scott Charleville, who threw for 880 yards and 10 touchdowns. Caballero, a first-team all-district selection in the Bulldogs’ secondary last year after registering 61 tackles and a team-high three interceptions, was also an integral part in the passing game at wide receiver. Sophomores Collin Rowland and Jake LeJuene are backups.
“Charles will run a good offense for us,” Bolotte said. “He was our backup quarterback last year and played a lot at wide receiver so he knows the offense. Charles will not go both ways. He is going to be my quarterback and I am not going to play him on defense. Our two sophomore quarterbacks have to learn the offense a little better because if Charles goes down one of them is going to have to step up.”
Ascension Catholic returns two all-district running backs in senior James LeBeouf and junior Myron Dominique. LeBeouf earned first-team honors after rushing for more than 500 yards and seven touchdowns and Dominique, the Bulldogs’ fastest player, was named to the second-team. Others who may tote the ball include senior Nick LeBlanc, junior Josh Longnecker, sophomores Taylor Landry and Taylor Tripode and freshmen Wade Bailey.
“We got pretty good depth at running back but we are expecting a lot out of Myron and James,” Bolotte said.
Senior Frankie Sotile, a four-year starter, returns to anchor the offensive line after earning first-team all-district honors last season at guard. The Bulldogs also return multiple-year senior starters Nate Allen, Logan Luquette and Greg Cater at center, guard and tackle and another multiple-year starter in junior tackle Ben Schexnayder to virtually leave the entire line intact. Sophomore Blaine Falsetta saw significant playing time last year and junior Adam Falcon will provide needed depth.
“We are going to be all right there,” Bolotte said.
Junior Kolby Martinez returns at tight end after earning second-team honors and will be joined by senior Matt Pearce, a 6-7 honorable mention selection at wide receiver, and senior Taylor Marcello, also an honorable mention pick at defensive back, in the receiving corps. Junior Hunter Lemoine and sophomore Alex Olivier also fit into the passing scheme after seeing playing time last year.
“I think we will be able to throw the ball a little better this year,” Bolotte said. “Kolby was our leading receiver last year and Matt continues to grow so we can just throw it up and let him go get it.”
DEFENSE – The Bulldogs will mainly run out of a 4-4 defense this season after relying on a 5-2 front the past several years.
“We are going to run a Split 4 this year,” Bolotte said. “We will run a little 5-2 too, but it will basically be the Split 4. The strength of our defense will be our front four. We are going to have to be tough and contain people because we have no speed to catch people. We can’t let them get outside on us.”
Ascension’s Catholic’s defensive line looks much like their offensive line. Sotile earned second-team honors last season as well on defense and will be joined by junior Myles Haydel at tackle. Martinez and Longnecker will man the end positions and Allen, Luquette, Carter, Schexnayder, Falsetta and Falcon will provide depth.
LeBeouf also was a two-way all-district selection earning first-team honors at linebacker after registering 78 tackles and three sacks. He will be joined at inside linebacker by Connor Sullivan, while Marcello and LeMoine will see time at outside linebacker and defensive back depending on what defense the Bulldogs are in. Others who may contribute in the linebacking corps include LeBlanc and Bailey.
Dominique, clocked at 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, returns to the defensive secondary and will be joined by LeBlanc, Landry, LeMoine, Olivier and Bailey.
“(Myron) played defense when he had to last year and he is much improved so we expect a lot from him on both sides of the ball but we have four or five kids that can step up back there,” Bolotte said.
SPECIAL TEAMS – The Bulldogs lose first-team all-district kicker Matt McClelland but do return first-team all-district punter Taylor Marcello who kicked 27 times for 985 yards and a 36.5 average. Sotile has experience kicking off and may be expected to handle kicking duties.
Dominique will be expected to be the Ascension Catholic’s top return man.
SCHEDULE – Ascension Catholic nearly completely revamped their non-district schedule with the exception of their traditional opener against Hanson Memorial. Gone are Ridgewood Prep, Ecole Classique, Vermilion Catholic, Livonia and Delcambre as the Bulldogs welcome former regular foe Episcopal, cross-town rival Donaldsonville, Brusly and Central Catholic to their schedule. The third game of the season, Sept. 18, will mark the first time Ascension Catholic and Donaldsonville play in a varsity regular season football game in over 30 years and Central Catholic is who the Bulldogs played the last time they made it to the playoffs in 2005.
“I figured if we step up in class that will give us more power points,” Bolotte said. “Some people say I wasn’t thinking straight when I scheduled Donaldsonville but I figured we can hang with them for a while and do the best we can.”
With the addition of Christian Life and St. John and the departure of North Iberville, which closed their school, competition in District 8-1A will be much more stiffer this year. The Bulldogs host East Iberville to open district play before traveling to White Castle. Ascension Catholic then renews their rivalry with St. John at home before visiting West St. John and hosting Christian Life to close out the regular season.
“It is a lot tougher,” Bolotte said. “Christian Life played for the championship last season and St. John is always tough plus West St. John and White Castle are always good with a lot of speed but we will do what we have to do to win.”
OUTLOOK – The key for the Bulldogs, a team with so many going both ways, making the playoffs this season will be to stay healthy, according to Bolotte
“If somebody gets hurt we could be in trouble and forced to play someone without any experience,” Bolotte said. “We are a lot faster and stronger this year than last year. Our goal is to make the playoffs and I think that is attainable.”