Injury-plagued Bulldogs fall short in the dome
Throughout much of the season, almost everything that could have gone right went right for Ascension Catholic, but all of their good fortune ran out as they sought their first state title in 25 years.
At one point during the Division-IV state championship game on Wednesday evening, they were without their top four running backs.
With so much firepower missing from the field, the Bulldogs just couldn't muster any offense. They fell to Lafayette Christian, 10-0.
"Four of our top backs were out. It kind of handcuffs you as far as what you can do offensively," Ascension Catholic head coach Drey Trosclair said. "Some of the different things that we wanted to do, we just weren't able to do them. We weren't able to put any points on the board, but hats off to Lafayette Christian. They put forth a heck of an effort today. That's a really good football team that we played against."
Terrible misfortune hit the Ascension Catholic family on Wednesday morning as 1,600-yard running back Jamar Barber and his little brother, Dorian (the Bulldogs' No. 3 back) were involved in a car accident.
Thankfully, the two escaped without sustaining any serious injuries, but they did suffer eye injuries and bad contusions to the face that sidelined them for the championship game.
With the Barber brothers gone, that meant the offense would have to be on the shoulders of sophomore running back Jai Williams--who also rushed for over 1,600 yards during the season.
Williams got off to a good start.
In a scoreless game midway through the second quarter, Williams broke loose on a 29-yard run that gave Ascension Catholic a first down at the Lafayette Christian 34.
However, a few plays later, quarterback John Mire was picked off. On the return, Williams took a hard shot that resulted in a concussion that ended his night.
The Bulldogs were forced to begin the second half without their top three tailbacks.
Later in the game, their fourth back, Mason Zeringue had his night ended when he broke a finger.
This forced Ascension Catholic to give their offense a drastic facelift.
They had to bring in Bubba Gautreau at quarterback. Gautreau was their starting QB for much of the year, but a broken hand in week nine forced him to play strictly defense throughout the playoffs.
With metal screws and all, Gautreau was forced to go back under center, and Mire had to move to running back.
"The game plan was shot at that point," Trosclair said. "We're a running football team. We rushed for over 4,000 yards this season. If you take four running backs away from a team that runs for over 4,000 yards, the game plan obviously changes. We had to go to the air. That's not our thing. That's not our bread and butter."
While their offense sputtered, Lafayette Christian was finally able to get something going on offense late in the third.
They went on a nine-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 43-yard Colin LaHaye field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead.
Late in the fourth quarter, Lafayette Christian put the game away when Caleb Watts picked off Gautreau and returned it for a touchdown to go up 10-0 with just 4:19 left to play.
With so many weapons missing on offense, Ascension Catholic was only able to manage 98 yards of total offense.
Most of those yards came from Williams before he went down. In less than two quarters of work, he carried the ball 15 times for 87 yards.
The Bulldogs defense--despite missing four starters at one point--was spectacular.
They held Lafayette Christian--a team that was averaging 40 points a game coming into the contest--to just 149 total yards and a field goal.
"We didn't come out on the right side tonight, but this is a moment that we'll never forget for the rest of our lives," Trosclair said. "This is a great experience for our guys. It hurts bad right now, but I think looking back on it a couple of months from now, we'll be able to look back and say, 'Look what we did. We brought Donaldsonville its first state championship appearance is 25 years.'"
It was a tough 24 hours for Ascension Catholic, but the future looks bright for the program. Coach Trosclair thinks his team has a great chance to be back in the dome next December.
"The goal is going to be the same thing: to win a state championship," Trosclair said. "This team brings a lot back. We bring back 16 seniors; we only lose five. That senior class is the main reason we're here. They helped lay the foundation of what we want to be as a football team, and I could not be more proud of this senior class for getting us to this moment."