Lions looking to replace key starters this season
In 2019, Ascension Christian played their first full district schedule in five years. It didn't go well for the Lions.
Ascension Christian finished with just three wins for the second straight season. The Lions are hellbent on getting back on track in 2020. Prior to their struggles of the past two years, they had three straight winning seasons.
However, it won't be an easy fix for the Lions. They lost many key starters from last year's team, including two-year starting quarterback Zach Diez.
As a sophomore in 2018, Diez set a new single-season school record for most passing yards (3, 067), and his 30 touchdowns were good enough to tie another school record.
Diez sustained a back injury during the offseason that will sideline him for the entirety of 2020.
Ascension Christian has been looking for options at quarterback. Head coach Josh Puryear thinks Ethan Cormier will be the starter once the season begins.
"He's going to get reps at quarterback," Puryear said. "He has big shoes to fill with replacing Zach Diez. He's having a great summer so far, and really putting the work in and leading by example."
Another big piece of the passing game that was lost from last year's team was Derrick Varnado. At wide receiver, Varnado was a first-team All-District 7-1A selection, and he also made second-team All-Parish.
Overall, the Lions parted ways with 12 seniors.
Three of those losses came from the starting offensive line--Daniel Jones, Noah Blair and Hayden Cashat. Jones was an all-district performer.
Ascension Christian also lost running back and linebacker Byron Hansley.
Fortunately for the Lions, they will return some guys with substantial experience. Leading the charge will be running back and linebacker Brady Gueho. Gueho made all-district in 2019.
Also, all-district center Collin Peterson returns on the offensive line, and starting wideout Emory Templet will be back.
Puryear thinks sophomore Brock Stafford could be huge for them on the offensive line this season, and he's looking for Adin Carter to try to replace Varnado's play-making ability at wideout, but that will be easier said than done.
Defensively, the Lions will be led by defensive end Nick Davis. Outside of Varnado, Davis was Ascension Christian's only other first-team all-district selection last year. He will be joined on the D-line by Luke Gautreaux.
Puryear is still trying to figure out where his team will be the strongest this upcoming season.
"That is yet to be determined. We have a lot of youth and inexperience on the team," Puryear said. "We've had a great summer so far, but we are definitely going to need quality reps in our scrimmage and Jamboree. We are going to need guys like Brady Gueho, Nick Davis, and Collin Peterson, who have a lot of experience under their belts, to lead our guys each week."
With the recent spike in Coronavirus cases in Louisiana, it's looking more and more likely that the high-school football season will be delayed. There is even a chance it could be cancelled.
If delayed, there is a chance scrimmages and jamborees could be scrapped in 2020, which could be a big blow for a team as inexperienced as the Lions.
"It's a new year, and we are hoping to bounce back from a tough one last year," Puryear said. "We are hoping for the opportunity to play football this fall."