FOOTBALL

Lions ready to make history in 2015

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
One of Ascension Christian's greatest strengths this season will be the offensive line--where they return four starters. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

Ascension Christian is less than a year removed from the greatest season in their football program's history, but the Lions aren't satisfied.

They want more.

The program has steadily built itself up after facing the harsh reality of a season cancelled due to low numbers back in 2012.

In the final hour, they were able to get a team on the field. Though the year ended with zero wins, the program stayed alive. Head coach Josh Puryear was hired in the offseason and ever since, Ascension Christian has made strides.

In 2013, they finally put an end to a dubious 23-game losing streak. They won two games that year and made the playoffs for the first time in school history.

And just last year, more history followed when they won three games – the most the Lions have ever earned in a single season.

Coach Puryear said he thinks that the recent success is setting the table for something truly special in 2015.

"We believe this will be our best year yet at Ascension Christian," Puryear said. "We have a good core of players, both young and old, that are capable of doing great things for us this year. Our schedule is very competitive, but we are believing and preparing for a great season here at Ascension Christian."

Much of the anticipation comes from an offense that returns six starters from a year ago – including many of the Lions' best skill-position players.

However, they'll have a new look. With last year's starting quarterback Darrin Landry gone, sophomore running back Chris Middleton will be stepping in under center.

Coach Puryear said he is excited about what the transition can do for the Ascension Christian offense.

"Chris Middleton played some as an athlete for us last year, but we are expecting big things with him starting at QB this season."

Middleton will have two dependable receivers to lean on as all-district wideout Peyton Bahlinger and seniors Seth Mangrum and Paxton Page both return.

The Lions' offensive line appears that it should be the strongest group they've ever had. Only losing one starter in Thomas Gamble, they bring back Eddie Krass, Dylan Capiel, Micah Freeman and Jeff Ragusa.

Sophomore Eric Sims will be stepping in as the starter at right tackle. Puryear thinks he will prove to be the anchor of the offensive line.

The defense should be stout as well. They also bring back six starters, many of which are starting on offense.

Coach Puryear said he thinks that junior defensive back Ricky Martinez will be the catalyst of the unit.

"Ricky Martinez at strong safety could be a physical defender for us this year," Puryear said.

Besides the returning talent, the Lions appear very excited about their schedule in 2015. No longer will they have to deal with perennial powers like West St. John, Madison Prep and Ascension Episcopal.

The Lions are now part of District 6-1A – which includes the likes of White Castle, Southern Lab and Kentwood – but they will not play a full district schedule.

They have waived the opportunity to play for a district championship so that they will be able to play more non-district contests. For the non-district games, they have scheduled many schools that are similar to them in size and depth.

Some of these teams include Crescent City – a team they went 1-1 against over the past two years, and Ridgewood – a team they have beaten two years in a row.

The only district teams they will face this year will be Parish foe Ascension Catholic, St. John and East Iberville. The Lions have beaten East Iberville two years in a row.

Regardless of which teams line up against them, Ascension Christian seems ready to make fans proud in 2015.

"We have a great group of guys that get along and love playing with each other," Puryear said. "Our guys are very coachable, and I believe they are ready to prove something this year – not only to our school, but to our community."