Bulldogs proved they have the heart of a champion

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Ascension Catholic earned the Division-IV state runner-up trophy after a 10-0 loss to Lafayette Christian on Thursday. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Anyone who coaches or plays football will tell you, when it comes to injuries, the mentality you must have is “next man up.”

Unfortunately for Ascension Catholic, this mantra was stretched to its absolute limit in the Division-IV state title game against Lafayette Christian.

There’s only so many times you can go with “next man up” until you don’t have anymore men to throw out on the field.

That was the Bulldogs’ reality on Thursday night. They simply ran out of bodies.

This forced them to completely alter their game plan and scrap the concepts and plays that had earned them a trip to the state title game. They were forced to do things offensively that they haven’t done all season.

It was so disappointing to see the team cursed with such bad luck in the span of a little more than 24 hours.

This team worked their butts off all year and put up one of the greatest seasons in the school’s history. They went 11-2 and steamrolled their way through the playoffs to reach the Superdome for the first time in 25 years.

They put up amazing numbers along the way. Heading into Thursday, they were averaging 39 points per game, while only surrendering a meager 10.

Now, the program’s biggest game in over two decades rolls around, and they don’t have their best players. They’re in the dome, but without the guys that were driving forces in getting them there.

The Bulldogs were simply snakebitten.

On Wednesday morning, star running back Jamar Barber and his little brother, Dorian were involved in a car accident that sent both players to the hospital.

Thank the Lord they escaped any serious injuries, but they did not walk away unscathed. They both sustained eye injuries and some pretty brutal facial contusions.

So, come Thursday evening, they were forced to watch the game from the sideline in street clothes.

Jamar was part of one of the best one-two punches in the state. He and running mate Jai Williams each ran for over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns during the year.

The entire Bulldog offense was predicated on the running of he and Williams.

Also, Dorian was Ascension Catholic’s No. 3 back. During the season, he proved that he could be quite explosive when he was given carries.

So, this meant that Williams would have to shoulder the load against Lafayette Christian. Also, No. 4 back Mason Zeringue moved into the starting lineup.

Williams was running well in the first half. He had 87 yards when he took a big shot following an interception. This hit sidelined him for the rest of the game with a concussion.

So, just a quarter and a half into the state title game, the Bulldogs were without their top three backs.

They had to rely on Zeringue in the second half, but then he broke his finger. So, they were down four running backs.

As a result, they had to make some drastic changes to the offense.

Former starting quarterback Bubba Gautreau had to take over under center, despite not being 100 percent as he rehabs a broken hand. John Mire had to be moved from QB to running back.

It didn’t go well.

With the hand injury and the rust from being out for so long, Gautreau struggled to complete passes and was picked off twice.

But having to sling the ball all over the yard, that’s not Ascension Catholic football.

They look to give it to those two stud running backs and have them do the rest. The injuries didn’t allow them to do that on Thursday night, and it’s so unfortunate.

Though Ascension Catholic lost, they proved that they have the heart of a champion.

Don’t forget that Barber, Williams and Zeringue were also three of their best players on defense. In addition to them, starting safety Brock Acosta was injured in the first half.

So, the Bulldogs were down their top four running backs and four starters on defense. Still, they were only down 3-0 with five minutes left to play in the game. That’s amazing.

With so many key players missing, they had no business being in that game, but they were. Until a pick-six late in the fourth quarter, the game was still there for the taking.

What unbelievable fight that team showed on Thursday night. I know hard-nosed competitors don’t like to accept “moral victories,” be they should. They should be very proud of what they did in the dome.

I think they made it pretty obvious to everyone watching that they were the better team and that if they had their full compliment of players, they would have won.

Congrats to the Bulldogs on a tremendous season. And here’s to hoping they’ll be back to the dome at this time next year.