Williams, Prean fuel Bulldogs in Saia's first win

Michael Tortorich
Ascension Catholic senior Jai Williams scores the first touchdown of the night. He added another score on fourth-and-goal before the half. Photo by Michael Tortorich.

Senior Jai Williams and freshman Khai Prean accounted for two touchdowns each as Ascension Catholic head coach Benny Saia notched his first win, a 28-7 victory in his initial game in purple and gold.

Ascension Catholic (1-0) almost completed a shutout against St. Thomas Aquinas Friday night, but Drew Milton put the Falcons on the scoreboard on a quarterback keeper with eight second remaining.

For Saia, Friday marked his first regular season game since his return to coaching after a two-year break from the gridiron. He had served as head coach and athletic director at Dutchtown for the school's first 15 years. And up until the end of the 2016 season, he had been coaching for 31 years.

After gathering with the team, Saia was given the game ball to celebrate the win. He accepted it, then said he wanted to hand it down to Bulldog junior Sam Melancon.

After back-to-back appearances in the Division-IV championship game over the last two seasons, the Bulldogs were eager to get back onto the field with the 2019 edition.

"It feels great," Saia said when asked about his first victory at Ascension Catholic. "I'm so happy for the kids. Everybody thought Ascension Catholic football died last year when those seniors walked out of the building. These kids are showing it's alive and well."

Williams opened the scoring by outrunning defenders to the left corner of the end zone with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter. Jacob Dunn kicked the extra point.

Dunn, who started at quarterback, had a key play during the scoring drive when he completed a pass to Dorian Barber. Senior Eric Simon also picked up a long run on the possession, which ended with a horse-collar tackle penalty that gave the Bulldogs an extra 15 yards.

Williams added a second touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 with 1:27 left before the half. He kept the scoring drive alive by converting another fourth-and-three. The Falcons blocked the PAT.

Just before halftime, the Ascension Catholic defense had a notable moment when Owen Smith and J'Mond Tapp collected back-to-back sacks.

In the third quarter, Prean broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run. On the two-point conversion, Williams bulldozed his way through defenders to reach the goal line. With 11:37 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs led 21-0.

Just minutes later, Prean added his second score when he found a seam down the right sideline on a 79-yard punt return. Ascension Catholic held a 28-0 lead with 8:41 to go in the third.

"Khai's been coming along all year," Saia said. "He's special. Dorian Barber was a little bumped up, and Khai really stepped up there."

In the fourth quarter, Ascension Catholic was able to substitute for several positions, giving reserves some early season playing experience. Freshman quarterback Bryce Leonard was able to get snaps, along with running backs Owen Theriot, Casey Mays, and Ethan Lewellen.

In week two, the Bulldogs will open their home schedule at Floyd Boutte Memorial Stadium in Donaldsonville when they host Riverside.