Two Bulldog football standouts sign

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

National Signing Day was a special one for Ascension Catholic on Wednesday afternoon as two of the players that helped lead them to two straight state championship appearances signed with colleges.

Heralded running back Jai Williams inked his letters of intent to continue his football career at Nicholls. There was no mystery surrounding it.

However, offensive lineman Nick Hilliard kept his decision secret until Wednesday. At the ceremony in the gym, he finally announced that he would be signing with Princeton, an Ivy-League school.

After taking a two-year break from coaching, longtime Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia took over the program at Ascension Catholic in 2019. He was there Wednesday to celebrate the special day for his two players.

"It's been a complete honor for me to coach these two guys, as well as our entire senior class," Saia said. "Coming in as a new coach, I needed these guys to trust me and to follow the plan, and they did it 100 percent. I know, without a doubt in my mind, they're going to be successful at the next level and then later on in life.

"I think I speak for the entire Ascension Catholic community when I say that we appreciate everything they put into this school and this program. We're really going to enjoy following them down the road."

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Hilliard has excelled both on the field and in the classroom throughout his career with the Bulldogs.

Hilliard was a three-year starter on the offensive line for Ascension Catholic. For the past two seasons, he was both first-team all-district as well as an All-State selection. He also made all-district as a defensive lineman this past season.

In 2019, he was named first-team All-Parish on offense.

Hilliard helped pave the way for Williams, who established himself as one of the greatest running backs ever to play with the Bulldogs.

He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman, and he ended his career rushing for at least 1,400 yards in three straight seasons.

His greatest year came as a junior when Williams piled up nearly 3,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns, on his way to being named All-State and both the District 6-1A MVP and the Ascension Parish Offensive MVP.

In the Division-IV title game, he set a new state championship record with 40 carries. He totaled 262 yards, which is a record for most yards in a Class 1A/Division-IV state title game.

This past season, Williams rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 27 touchdowns. In doing so, he broke his father Germaine's school record for most career scores.

Williams was named the District 7-1A MVP and the All-Metro Outstanding Offensive Player for Class 3A and below. He also made first-team All-State.

Like Hilliard, he played both ways. He was a first-team all-district and first-team All-Parish linebacker on defense.

Williams and Hilliard helped Ascension Catholic have a memorable year in 2019. They went undefeated during the regular season for the first time in more than 50 years.

The Bulldogs won District 7-1A and went on to reach the state quarterfinals for a fourth straight season.