Bulldogs have new coach, new district in 2019

Kyle Riviere
Jai Williams returns after being named the Ascension Parish Offensive MVP in 2018. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

There is only one football team in Ascension Parish that will have a new head coach prowling the sidelines in 2019, and that's Ascension Catholic. Although, he won't be new to the area.

After making trips to the Superdome for the Division-IV title game for the past two seasons, the Bulldogs will be led by longtime Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia. Saia takes over after the school and four-year head coach Drey Trosclair parted ways a week after the 2018 season ended.

Ascension Catholic had plenty of success under Trosclair--especially over the past two years. In those two seasons, the Bulldogs went a combined 23-5 and reached back-to-back state title games.

This will be Saia's first time coaching in three years. Prior to the spring of 2017, he decided to resign as head coach at Dutchtown after leading the program for 15 years.

While there, Saia compiled an overall record of 110-55. This included four district titles, a streak of 11 straight playoff appearances and three trips to the state quarterfinals.

Saia said that the two years away from coaching were much needed, but he's now thrilled to get back on the sidelines in 2019.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity, but it carries with it a lot of responsibility," Saia said. "I have to try to keep the program at the high level it's at right now and then try to exceed that. But I would have been excited about the job whether they had made it to the dome the past two years or not. Having made it to the championship, that's just an extra bit of gravy."

Saia will have lots of turnaround to deal with this season. However, the Bulldogs do return their most heralded player in running back Jai Williams.

Williams was an All-State performer last season and the Ascension Parish Offensive MVP as he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns.

In the state title game, he carried the ball 40 times for 262 yards. The 40 carries were the most ever for any championship. The 262 yards set the new record for most yards in a Class 1A/Division-IV state title contest.

Williams is also a starting linebacker on defense.

And although the Bulldogs will lose his all-district running mate in Jamar Barber, they'll return Jamar's younger brother, Dorian--who has been Ascension Catholic's third-leading rusher for the past two seasons.

The Bulldogs will have to find some answers up front to pave the way for Williams and Barber. They do return a first-team all-district standout in Nick Hilliard, who has been getting heavily recruited, but they lose virtually everyone else.

The Bulldogs will also lose three of their top receivers in Tre' Medine, Rodney Blanchard and Alex Hebert, and they must find a new starting quarterback with the graduation of John Mire.

Defensively, the Bulldogs lose two all-district defensive linemen in Nicholls signee Dillion Davis and JB Broussard, but they'll still be stout in the trenches with the return of Hilliard and talented sophomore J'mond Tapp.

In the secondary, they'll lose Blanchard, Jamar Barber and Mason Zeringue, but they'll return a playmaker at cornerback in Eric Simon, Jr. and an all-district safety in Brock Acosta.

Ascension Catholic is also in for a huge change this season when it comes to the district. They move from District 6-1A to District 7-1A.

All of the teams that follow them there are teams they have faced each year in the old district, but powerhouses Southern Lab and Kentwood will not be joining them.

In the four years the Bulldogs shared a district with those two teams, they went just 1-7 against them. Their only victory came last season, when they beat top-ranked Kentwood, 14-7.

This season, the Bulldogs will open with a road game against St. Thomas Aquinas of Class 2A.