Lions will try to follow up historic 2016 season

Kyle Riviere
Ascension Christian is coming off of an eight-win season in 2016. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

There was a time not that long ago when Ascension Christian barely had enough players to put a football team together. There was a time when winning one or two games was considered a successful season.

Things have changed in the past few years.

Behind head coach Josh Puryear, the Lions have built themselves into a respectable program that has continued to set new school records with each passing season.

In 2015, they won six games. Last year, they upped the win total to eight—which was the most victories the program has ever earned in a single season.

The 2016 squad also set a record for most points scored, and for the first time in football, they beat district rival St. John.

Now, Ascension Christian aims to keep the program moving in the right direction.

It won’t be easy. The Lions are losing many of the top players that spearheaded last season’s run to their best year in school history.

Most notably, Ascension Christian will be without starting quarterback Peyton Bahlinger.

Last season, Bahlinger transitioned from all-district receiver to first-year quarterback following the transfer of starter Chris Middleton.

Bahlinger caught on quick. He went on to rewrite the Lion record books as he threw for 2,369 yards and 30 touchdowns, while running for an additional 763 yards and 13 scores.

His amazing two-way production helped Ascension Christian average 48 points per game. At the end of the season, Bahlinger was named second-team All-Parish.

The Lions will also be without Ballinger’s favorite target from last season: Ian Carter. Carter had over 1,000 yards receiving last season, and he was also Ascension Christian’s starting kicker.

Brye Templet, the program’s all-time leading rusher, will also be gone.

During the spring, Puryear said that his young team will have to step up and fill these holes, but he is very pleased with how well his team has meshed.

“This year, I find we have good team chemistry. Our guys get along with each other and understand the importance of good character in the locker room,” Puryear said.

Coach Puryear went on to say that Zach Diez and Derrick Varnado will be competing for the starting quarterback spot.

Diez has been the more polished passer, but Varnado—a receiver from last season—has made himself a viable option with his speed and athleticism.

Whomever becomes starting quarterback in week one, they’ll have a talented receiver to rely on in K’von Delone. Delone was a second-team All-Parish wideout for the Lions last season, and he was also a very dangerous return man.

Other players that Puryear has mentioned that will play huge roles for them this season will be All-Parish linebacker Brennan Tramonte, Brady Gueho and tackle Luke Rodrigue.

Coach Puryear thinks Tramonte and Landon Ortego will make up a great linebacker tandem. He said they’re his two top leaders that they will rely on heavily throughout the season.

Other players he expects to be impact performers are offensive and defensive linemen Trevor Klipstein, Blaze Altazan and Eric Sims and athlete Tyler Cambre.

“We are coming off our best year, and we have big shoes to fill,” Puryear said. “We have some guys that are going to be young at some spots and inexperienced, but we believe we are going to have a good season. We are looking forward to continuing the momentum from last year. The players now know what it takes to compete day in and day out.”

Ascension Christian will play no District 6-1A opponents this year. This ends their rivalry with St. John and parish foe Ascension Catholic.

Their 2017 schedule includes many new opponents like: Springfield, Ben Franklin, Fisher, St. Martin’s Episcopal and Ville Platte.

Their season finale will be a road game against Slaughter Community Charter on Nov. 3.