Photos: Acadiana private schools host jamborees at St. Thomas Moore on Friday _lowres

Advocate file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Ascension Episcopal fullback Peyton Adams runs the ball against Hanson in a jamboree game.

The evolution of Ascension Episcopal’s football program has witnessed its share of firsts this season ranging from a Top 10 ranking, to a share of the District 7-1A championship and No. 1 seed in the Division IV state select playoffs.

Now the top-seeded Blue Gators (11-1) are focused on the next logical step when they host fourth-seeded St. Mary’s of Natchitoches (12-0) in a Division IV semifinal. The winner advances to the state championship game.

“It’s been one game at a time, one step at a time,” AES coach Michael Desormeaux said. “I told our kids since the beginning of the year to enjoy every day we’re out here and don’t worry about the future. If you work hard, it will take care of itself later.”

District 7-1A counterpart, No. 2 Vermilion Catholic (10-2) will also be at home in a semifinal against No. 6 Southern Lab (8-3), while No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) travels to Hammond to face No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas (12-0) at Southeastern Louisiana’s Strawberry Stadium in Class 2A action.

“Across the board they’re big and talented,” VC coach Russell Kuhns said of Southern Lab.

“I think everybody’s bigger and more talented than us. Somehow our kids have the will to compete, and I expect the same thing out of them.”

ST. MARY’S AT ASCENSION EPISCOPAL : A week after advancing with a 21-7 win over St. Frederick, Ascension Episcopal’s defense recorded its second shutout of the season in a 42-0 victory of No. 9 Cedar Creek.

The Blue Gators allowed 153 yards.

“Our defense has been lights out the past two weeks,” Desormeaux said. “They’ve been phenomenal, and when you play great defense it takes a lot of pressure off the offense, allows them to relax and have some fun.”

St. Mary, the District 3-1A champion, is back in the semifinals for the second straight year, advancing with a 48-7 victory over No. 5 Hamilton Christian.

AES running back Ja’Ciery Linzer continued his stellar season with 149 yards a week ago, pushing his season total to 1,253 yards on 164 carries and 19 TDs. Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback commitment Jake Arceneaux has completed 137 of 237 passes for 2,187 yards and 24 TDs.

SOUTHERN LAB AT VERMILION CATHOLIC: The Eagles, the 2013 state champion, is back in the semifinals a year after a mistake-filled 28-14 quarterfinal loss against Madison Prep.

“That was a great learning experience for all those kids,” Kuhns said. “Had they not had that game they wouldn’t be ready for this game they’re about to play.”

VC has won its past six games and brings in an offense averaging 391 yards and 45 points per game.

Senior quarterback Hunter Frith will test a talented Southern Lab secondary, having passed for 3,436 yards and 42 touchdowns with Tyler Derouen (55-1,285, nine TDs) leading the way.

NOTRE DAME AT ST. THOMAS AQUINAS: The Notre Dame-St. Thomas Aquinas semifinal is the state’s only matchup featuring a pair of undefeated teams.

The Pioneers’ suffocating defense, which has allowed 87.2 yards and 4.1 points per game, will get quite a challenge from Falcons’ 6-foot-4 quarterback Cameron Dantzler, a Mississippi State defensive back commitment.

Dantzler had a hand in five of his team’s six touchdowns in last week’s 42-35 double overtime victory over Country Day.

“It all starts with him,” Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook said. “Offensively it’s centered around him. He also turns around and plays defense. He’s a special player.”

St. Thomas Aquinas has another such player on its defensive front in 6-4, 300-pounder Ed Alexander, an LSU commitment.

Quarterback Joe Faulk leads Notre Dame offensively, having thrown for 847 yards and 14 TDs to go with 93 carries for 501 yards and seven scores.

“He’s a force inside and have to account for him and sometimes you have to use two people to do that,” Cook said of Alexander. “It’s a challenge there.”