Young and hungry Lions wrap up spring practice

Kyle Riviere
Ascension Christian head coach Josh Puryear talks to his team after their final spring practice. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Last season was a special one for Ascension Christian as they won a school-record eight games and scored more points than any Lion team of the past.

The excitement from the season carried over to the spring for Ascension Christian as they got their first taste of what’s to come in 2017.

Head coach Josh Puryear said that they had to battle through some injuries and many new faces had to step into starting roles, but spring was an overall success.

“It went well. We have a lot of new guys, a lot of younger guys on the team this year,” Puryear said. “There was a learning curve, and we’ll have to carry that over to the summer with some seven-on-sevens and some weight training. We have some guys that need to put on some weight. We lost a lot from last year, but that means there are spots available for these guys to fill.”

Last season, Ascension Christian finished the season with an 8-2 record. Only St. Amant won more games within the parish (nine). In those eight victories, the Lions averaged 48 points per contest.

Their win over St. John was their first in program history.

Though, many of the top players from this team are now gone—including 1,000-yard wide receiver and starting kicker Ian Carter and running back Brye Templet.

Most importantly, Ascension Christian loses starting quarterback Peyton Bahlinger—who put up eye-popping numbers in a season that saw him earn All-Parish honors.

Bahlinger was the team’s leading receiver prior to the season, but when starting quarterback Chris Middleton transferred to East Ascension, he was asked to make the transition to QB.

He ended up passing for 2,369 yards and 30 touchdowns and running for 763 yards and 13 scores.

Coach Puryear said that the battle to see who takes over as starting QB has come down to two players.

“The QB competition has been promising,” Puryear said. “We have a ninth-grader in Zach Diez battling with tenth-grader Derrick Varnado. Derrick was an athlete for us last year. One can throw, and the other can run, so we need to balance it out to get a well-rounded quarterback. They’re going to have to work real hard this summer, but they know they need to improve, and it’s good to have that healthy competition.”

There were a few other players that stood out to Puryear doing the spring.

“K’von Delone stood out. He’s going to be a senior for us this year, and he had some big games for us last year,” Puryear said. “We have a ninth-grader named Brady Gueho that I see doing big things. We have our linebacker Brennan Tramonte coming back, so we have some bright spots. Luke Rodriguez is a big kid that’s going to play tackle for us. I think he’ll do well.”

Coach Puryear said that though his team lacks overall experience, they make up for it with strong team chemistry.

“We have to replace so much,” Puryear said. “The one good thing I like about this group is that they’re young, but they work well together. You get some groups that have a lot of talent, but they don’t mesh well. These guys work hard together on and off of the field.”

The success of the 2016 team has set the expectation level higher than it has ever been for Ascension Christian football, but Coach Puryear said that his team will work hard to meet those expectations.

“I told the guys at the beginning of spring that when we got here, if we won one or two games, I was getting the ice bath. It was a big thing,” Puryear said. “Last year, we won eight games, so we raised the bar a little bit.

“I told the guys that they’re expected now to go into games and compete and to work hard, so it’s going to be interesting to see how these guys respond to that. I’m not trying to put that over their shoulders, because that’s a lot to live up to, but we’ll work hard and see what happens.”