Josh Puryear, in his third year as head coach of the Ascension Christian Lions, is pleased with the progress he made last season and is looking forward to more this year.

Building a football program at a small school has its challenges.

“Two years ago, we won twice,” he said. “Last year, we added our third win and first homecoming victory ever. Our guys are starting to understand the amount of work and preparation it takes each week to be prepared to play on a Friday night.”

Puryear and staff will have six starters returning on offense and defense.

Seth Mangrum and Micah Freeman are the veteran leaders who are playing with a lot of experience on both sides of the ball. Peyton Bahlinger, first team All-District last year as a receiver, will be counted on to make big plays carrying and catching the ball. Sophomore Chris Middleton will lead the offense as a first-time starter at quarterback.

Brennan Tramonte, at middle linebacker, and right tackle Eric Sims are two young players expected to contribute. First-time player Ricky Martinez will help carry the load offensively and defensively playing outside linebacker.

The first two games of the regular season will be important to the Lions.

“We want to set the tone this year, and Gueydan will be a big away game and an early challenge for our team,” Puryear said. “The second game will be against Crescent City Christian. The past two seasons, the games have been decided by less than a touchdown.”