Lions overpowered by Crusader rushing attack
Ascension Christian's quest for a third straight victory came up short last Friday night as visiting Westminster Christian used early Lion miscues and a persistent ground attack to run away with a 40-20 victory.
With the game tied at 7 after one quarter, the Crusaders reeled off 20 unanswered points to go up 27-7. From there, they did just enough to ice away the win.
Though disappointed with the loss, Ascension Christian head coach Josh Puryear was very pleased with the effort his team put forth.
"I was real proud of our guys. A few years ago, that school was just one win away from going to the dome," Puryear said. "It just shows the growth of our program and what great kids we have. We fought hard. We had a lot of them banged up, but they just kept fighting, and I couldn't ask for anything more."
The Lions' first two drives were promising, but they were derailed by a flurry of penalties.
Westminster took advantage as they drove 72 yards in nine plays and took a 7-0 lead with a 10-yard touchdown run by Noah Launey.
"We made some bad mistakes in the early going, and it caused some of our drives to be stunted," Puryear said. "We had some young guys playing in those spots. I thought we came out fine; those penalties just killed us. We have to improve on that."
Ascension Christian did respond as they recovered a Crusader muffed punt.
Five plays later, Lion quarterback Chris Middleton connected with Peyton Bahlinger for a 40-yard touchdown while being drilled by a pass rusher. The score tied the game at 7.
It was in the second quarter where the Crusader offense exploded.
They took a 14-7 lead after a six-play, 64-yard drive was capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run by Launey.
It only took Westminster three plays to travel 61 yards on their next possession. Ken Jones gave them a 20-7 halftime lead with a 32-yard touchdown run.
The Crusaders finished off their string of unanswered touchdowns early in the third quarter.
On their first offensive play of the second half, quarterback Kaleb Prudhomme went play-action and hit a wide open Jonah Manuel for a 50-yard score to extend the Westminster advantage to 27-7.
The Lions never surrendered.
Facing the large deficit, they later made a goal-line stand and forced the Crusaders to turn the ball over on downs.
That stop gave the Ascension Christian offense momentum as they went on an 11-play, 99-yard drive that was capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Middleton to Ricky Martinez on fourth down.
It cut the deficit to 27-14 heading into the fourth, but Westminster had an answer.
They drove 66 yards in 13 pays and went up 33-14 with a five-yard touchdown run by Jones.
After the Crusaders added a final score, Ascension Christian's offense closed the game on a high note. Middleton connected with Josh Diez for a 38-yard score.
"I was very proud of our effort because we always talk about building a good culture here," Puryear said. "A few years ago, we might have folded, and it might have been a 40-point loss, but we kept battling. I was really proud of the effort."
Middleton had a huge game for the Lions. He went 17-33 for 271 yards with three touchdowns and one interception through the air. He added 28 yards on the ground.
His favorite receiver was Bahlinger as he finished with seven catches for 96 yards and a score.
The difference was the running game. Ascension Christian was out-gained 340-54 on the ground.
Launey led the Crusader rushing attack with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
The loss dropped the Lions to 2-2 overall.
This Friday night, they'll host 1-3 Houma Christian. If they win, they will tie the school record for most single-season wins in program history.
To view a gallery of this game, log on to weeklycitizen.com on Oct. 2, for Photo Friday.