Veteran Bulldog squad looking for another district title

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
All-State running back Khai Prean returns for the Ascension Catholic offense in 2021.

Ascension Catholic has won the District 7-1A title two years in a row.

The Bulldogs are hoping that three times will be the charm, propelling them to another run to the Division-IV state championship game in 2021.

Ascension Catholic certainly has the personnel to do it. The Bulldogs return most of their roster from a team that went undefeated during last year’s regular season.

Ascension Catholic was the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were upset by Cedar Creek in the opening round.

Since the loss, head coach Benny Saia has retired, following two seasons with Ascension Catholic.

Taking over for Saia this season will be first-year head coach Chris Schexnayder. Schexnayder has been an assistant for the Bulldogs for the past nine seasons. Most recently, he was the team’s defensive coordinator.

When first hired, Schexnayder said, “I want to bring a tough, hard-nosed and hard-working mentality to the team, but I don’t think it’s going to take much to bring that to the program, because it’s already here. I think our guys already fit that mold. I just want to continue what we’ve started over the years.”

Schexnayder will have a lot to work with in his first season as the head coach, especially on offense.

The Bulldogs bring back a four-star prospect at running back in Khai Prean. Prean was recently ranked the 158th-best 2023 recruit by Rivals.

Prean was the district’s Co-Offensive MVP last season. He has scholarship offers from a plethora of different schools, which includes Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Michigan State.

Prean will be joined in the backfield by Casey Mays, who is also one of the most dangerous return specialists in the area.

The Bulldogs will bring back almost their entire offensive line. The only player they lost was Owen Smith up front.

At receiver, Ascension Catholic will return an all-district performer in Brooks Leonard.

Once again, Leonard will be catching passes from his twin brother, Bryce. Bryce Leonard, who was first-team all-district in 2020, will return as a two-year starter at quarterback for the Bulldogs.

The Ascension Catholic defense should also be formidable.

The Bulldogs will be led by defensive lineman J’Mond Tapp, who is also a four-star recruit and ranked as the 128th-best 2022 prospect by 247Sports. Tap has scholarship offers from an array of powerhouse programs, such as LSU, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

Tapp was the district’s Defensive MVP in 2020 as he piled up 64 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

Although, the Bulldogs did lose two first-team all-district linebackers in Jacob Dunn and Brayden Duhon.

However, they’ll bring back Prean and Lex Melancon in the secondary, and Tre’ Williams will be joining Tap on the defensive line. Williams was a first-team all-district performer last season.

Ascension Catholic will have to reload on special teams. They’ll have dangerous return men with Prean and Mays, but the Bulldogs lost Dunn, who was an All-State kicker. They also lost an all-district punter in Matthew Lafleur.

In addition to District 7-1A action, Ascension Catholic will have a challenging non-district schedule. They’ll face Vermillion Catholic, St. Michael and Archbishop Hannan.