Bulldogs to return talented nucleus in 2017

Kyle Riviere
Jamar Barber returns as the Bulldogs' leading rusher. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

In Drey Trosclair’s second year as head coach, Ascension Catholic made quite the turnaround in 2016.

Now, with a wealth of returning starters from a team that reached the state quarterfinals, the Bulldogs are hoping to continue the program’s ascent and compete for a District 6-1A championship.

Last season, Ascension Catholic was able to evolve from a 4-6 squad that missed out on the playoffs to a 6-4 team that was routinely ranked in the Class 1A top-10 all year.

Their feat of winning six games was all the more impressive due to their trying schedule. They played seven playoff teams during the year—two of which were from larger classifications.

The Bulldogs’ solid play earned them a home game in the playoffs. It was their first postseason appearance in two years.

In the opening round, they trounced St. Edmund, 35-7, to advance to the state quarterfinals.

There, they fell to district rival Southern Lab. The Kittens went on to win the Division-IV state championship for the second straight season.

Ascension Catholic will lose some important pieces from last year’s team.

Most notably, they part ways with two first-team all-district defensive players in defensive lineman D.J. Giroir and cornerback Jacoby Stewart.

Giroir was a terror on the defensive line as he gathered 90 tackles and three sacks, while Stewart proved to be one of the best defensive backs in the parish—collecting five interceptions.

Offensively, the Bulldogs will be without leading receiver Kebori Hunter. Hunter had 536 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also ran for 136 yards and a score.

Finally, they’ll be forced to replace their starting quarterback for the second straight season with the graduation of Javon Yarbrough.

As a duel-threat last season, Yarbrough rushed for 1,081 yards.

There are two players Coach Trosclair has his eyes on as a successor under center.

“We have a quarterback battle,” Trosclair said. “Right now, Bubba Gautreau is our guy that we think is going to take the spot. He’s a senior leader for us, but our junior John Mire is right behind him. As of right now, Bubba’s leading the battle, but that’s not to say that when we line up week one against Mentorship that it’s gonna be him.

“He’s winning the race right now, but we look forward to seeing how everything turns out in camp, because you can’t really tell who is really going to progress and do the things we ask them to do to run our offense efficiently until they put the pads on.”

Gautreau was also the Bulldogs’ leading tackler last season at linebacker.

Joining him on defense will be three all-district players in defensive lineman Dillion Davis, linebacker Jai Williams and defensive back Mason Zeringue.

There are questions at quarterback, but there are none surrounding the running back position. The Bulldogs will return one of the best backfields in the district.

Leading the charge will be first-team all-district tailback Jamar Barber. In his first year as a starter for Ascension Catholic, Barber rushed for 1,308 yards and 17 touchdowns, while adding 132 yards receiving and two scores.

He will share carries with Williams. As a freshman, Williams rushed for 669 yards and six touchdowns. He is the son of former Bulldog great Germaine Williams.

Ascension Catholic’s schedule will have a new look in 2017.

No longer will they play parish rival Ascension Christian, and they will meet five new non-district opponents in Mentorship Academy, Sophie B. Wright, KIPP Renaissance, Thomas Jefferson and Covenant Christian.

Coach Trosclair was impressed with how his team looked during summer workouts.

“We like the group that we have,” Trosclair said. “We’ve had the best strength and conditioning program this summer in the three years that I’ve been here. I couldn’t be more proud of the way these guys are attacking the weight room, and I’m sure it’s going to translate to how we play on the field.”