Bulldogs punch ticket to the dome for state title game
At this time in 2015, Ascension Catholic was 4-6 and sitting at home watching other teams celebrate playoff victories.
Two years later, they're the team rejoicing and having their fan base storm the field. They're the team that's heading to the Superdome for the Division-IV state title game.
On Friday night, the Bulldogs jumped all over St. Mary's early and then did just enough to pull out a 35-21 semifinal victory to punch their ticket for the dome for the first time in 25 years.
"Our football team came out and played their A-game," third-year Ascension Catholic head coach Drey Trosclair said. "We asked them to play their best game of the year, and they did. Now, they get to reap the benefits of that and play in the state championship game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome."
Early on, Ascension Catholic was downright dominant.
On just their second play of the game, Jamar Barber broke loose on a 65-yard run that set them up with a first-and-goal at the St. Mary's 4-yard line.
Two plays later, Jai Williams scored from one yard out. After the extra point was blocked, the Bulldogs led 6-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Once again, it only took them four plays to score on their second drive.
Williams got back into the end zone after breaking free for a 50-yard score that put them ahead 13-0 late in the first quarter.
Each team then took turns fumbling the ball just short of the end zone. The fumbles took sure points off of the board and gave the opposing team the ball at the 20.
Though, the scoring drought quickly ended when Williams achieved the hat trick at the start of the second period. He broke free on a 37-yard scoring scamper.
The sky continued to fall for St. Mary's.
Down 21-0, an option pitch was fumbled and picked up by Mason Zeringue. Zeringue returned it to the Tigers' 2-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback John Mire scored on a two-yard option-keeper to give Ascension Catholic a dominating 28-0 advantage less than three minutes into the second quarter.
On the touchdown run, a Tiger defender was injured and forced to be carted off of the field.
The prolonged delay seemed to stunt the momentum of the Bulldogs.
To end the half, St. Mary's went on an eight-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown run by quarterback Aaron Howell to cut the deficit to 28-7.
This score remained until late in the third when Howell scrambled around and found a wide open receiver for an 80-yard touchdown that got them within 28-14.
Ascension Catholic was close to being held to another three-and-out on their next possession. But facing a third-and-eight, Mire hit Eric Simon, Jr. for 25 yards.
He later converted a third-and-nine by hitting Barber for 12.
The nine-play, 57-yard drive ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Williams that gave them a 35-14 lead one play into the fourth quarter.
"That drive was really critical, because if they get one more score, it's a one-score game, and we're in a dogfight," Trosclair said. "Our kids have been resilient all year. They did a great job of doing everything that we've asked them to do, and now we get to play for a state championship. What a crazy feeling."
Once again, both Barber and Williams hit the century mark.
Barber had 113 yards rushing, and Williams carried the ball 23 times for 120 yards and four touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.
With the victory, Ascension Catholic is back in the state title game for the first time since 1992, looking to win the school its fourth championship.
Waiting for them will be fourth-seeded Lafayette Christian.
The Bulldogs have steadily improved in the three years under Trosclair.
They went 4-6 in his first year and missed the playoffs. Last season, they improved to 6-4 and reached the quarterfinals. Now, they're headed to the dome.
"The 4-6 team two years ago, the seniors that year laid the foundation for this. They started it," Trosclair said. "We didn't have a successful year, as far as wins and losses, but we were able to set the foundation for our program, and it's been an amazing ride and amazing journey. But we're not done yet. We still have one to go."