Ascension Episcopal was only halfway toward its goal of securing the first state playoff victory in its six-year existence.
The No. 13 Blue Gators survived a back-and-forth first half with No. 4 Hamilton Christian, taking a 21-14 halftime lead before turning it over to their defense in the second half.
Defensive backs Brennan Ducote and Josh Hebert recorded two of three interceptions for Ascension Episcopal’s defense and linebacker Ja’Ceiry Linzer added three pass breakups in a 21-16 victory in a select Division IV playoff opener.
Ascension Episcopal (8-3) hosts No. 5 Southern Lab (6-5) Friday at its Youngsville campus at 7 p.m. in quarterfinal action.
“I think they took us lightly, and when we jumped out on them first, I think it kind of knocked them back on their heels,” AES coach Michael Desormeaux said. “Our kids expected to win. It’s fun to have gotten to that point, where the guys aren’t hoping they can but know they’re prepared to win.”
AES was one of 16 teams from the Acadiana area that advanced to either the select quarterfinal round or nonselect regionals.
Four of those teams will be involved in rematches from a year ago with No. 15 Acadiana (7-4) traveling to No. 2 Ponchatoula (11-0) after handing the Green Wave a 49-7 regional loss en route to their third Class 5A state championship.
No. 13 Kaplan (8-3) visits No. 4 and reigning Class 3A state champion Union Parish (10-1) for the second straight year ‘after losing 14-0 to the Farmers in last year’s Class 3A quarterfinals.
In Division III play, top-seeded Catholic-New Iberia (10-0), which knocked Northlake Christian out of playoffs 60-26 last season, hosts the ninth-seeded Wolverines (9-2), while fourth-seeded Opelousas Catholic (10-1) entertains Newman (10-1), which they defeated 28-26 in first-round action a year ago.
Although they didn’t cross paths last season Breaux Bridge and Neville had developed quite a playoff history with the two teams splitting their past four appearances.
No. 15 Breaux Bridge (7-3), which defeated West Ouachita 41-14, travels to No. 2 Neville (9-1), where they’ve won their past two meetings in 2008 and 2005.
“We got them on our side of the bracket again,” Breaux Bridge coach Paul Broussard said. “Every year they’re the No. 1 seed, and we’re always at the top.
“This year we fall to the bottom, and Neville gets the No. 2 seed. We can’t get away from those guys.”
In Division I, No. 7 Teurlings Catholic (9-1) earned a Saturday road date with No. 2 and reigning Division I state champion Rummel (10-0) at Joe Yenni Stadium, with No. 3 St. Thomas More (9-1), which drew a first-round bye, hosting No. 6 Jesuit (9-2).
Four select teams from Division IV advanced to the quarterfinals topped by top-seeded Vermilion Catholic (10-1) set to face ninth-seeded Madison Prep (7-4) at a undetermined venue in Baton Rouge.
North Vermilion is one of three nonselect schools in Class 3A that moved on and is the state’s lowest-seeded team still alive. The No. 27 Patriots (5-6) rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit with a 33-yard TD pass from Ty Desormeaux to Dylan Dent with 2:50 play and relied on Connor Dupuy’s interception off a tip from Caleb Castro with 15 seconds to play to secure a 24-20 triumph over No. 6 Buckeye.
“It was pretty exciting,” said North Vermilion coach Richard Prejean, whose team entertains No. 11 Jennings (8-3). “I have no way to describe it with the way we came from behind. It was a team effort. I’m so tickled pink with these kids. They’re so resilient.”
No. 2 Church Point (10-1) secured a home regional date with No. 15 North Webster (8-3).
North Vermilion, which won its way into the playoffs with a 27-24 overtime win over Erath in Week 10, has now won five of its past six games. Desormeaux completed 16 of 18 passes for 212 yards and three TDs to Taylor Abshire, Dade Dieterich and Dent in the Patriots latest win.
“We had a rough spot in the middle part of the year, had some tough teams to play and got beat up a little bit,” Prejean said. “We didn’t quit, got through some injuries and battled back.”