Lions finish up a positive spring

Kyle Riviere
Derrick Varnado will return as Ascension Christian's leading receiver in 2019. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Ascension Christian ended last week with an intrasquad scrimmage that wrapped up two weeks of spring practice.

Head coach Josh Puryear was happy with what he saw.

“We just wanted to get the kids out here and have a team scrimmage and control things," Puryear said. "Last year, we had 22 out of 36 guys that had never played football before. So, it’s a learning experience. We had a good spring. I like what we have coming up for this year.”

With so much inexperience on last year's roster, the Lions had a bit of a down season in 2018. They limped out to a 3-7 finish, after winning a combined 15 games during the previous two years.

But though they had some weaknesses, one of them wasn't at quarterback.

Sophomore Zach Diez stepped in as the full-time starter under center last season and put up gaudy numbers. In making second-team All-Parish, he threw for 3,067 yards and 30 touchdowns.

That yardage total set a new single-season school record, and the 30 touchdowns were good enough to tie another school record.

“He looks good," Puryear said. "We’re trying to get some weight on him, but he has a good arm. I feel that receiver wise, we can be pretty solid. We just have to do some work up front, but I like where our offense is at right now.”

The Lions will lose Tyler Cambre, a first-team All-Parish wide receiver from a year ago that put up monster numbers. In his senior season, he made 86 catches for 1,692 yards and 18 touchdowns. All three statistics set new single-season school records.

But even with Cambre now gone, the Lions will return a receiving duo that accounted for nearly 1,000 yards and just under 10 touchdowns in 2018.

That receiving combo consists of Derrick Varnado and Nathan Bledsoe. Puryear said both players were impressive during the spring.

Another player that stood out was Brady Gueho. He returns after missing almost all of last season with an injury.

“He’s our running back and linebacker. He was injured last season. He broke his hip, but he’s back now," Puryear said.

One of the things Coach Puryear is most encouraged with is his team's veteran leadership.

“We have 11 seniors this year—which is big for us. We’re expecting a lot from them, and we look forward to what they’re going to do this year," Puryear said.

For Ascension Christian to up their win total from last year, they'll have to improve in their running game. They averaged a mere 23 yards on the ground per contest.

Coach Puryear is hoping the return of Gueho can give their rushing attack a shot in the arm. Also, their top rushers from last year return in Jaden Barton and Byron Hansley. They combined for nearly 300 yards in 2018.

“Last year, we threw the ball well, but we couldn’t run the ball," Puryear said. "We’re trying to get to where we can run the ball more. But this group has some solid seniors, and they’ve played a lot of football under me. I think they’re going to lead us well. I think we have a strong locker room.”