Although it’s summertime and lots of folks are taking vacations and family gatherings, high school football is just around the corner as evidenced by the 7-on-7 competition this past weekend.

Our first team we’ll take a look at is the Ascension Christian Lions that compete in Class 1A. The Lions have made steady improvements in the past two years and head coach Josh Puryear is pleased with his team’s progress.

“We have 36 young men that came out for the team this year,” he said. “That is very encouraging for a small school.”

The Lions have been working out since June in the weight room and doing 7-on-7 drills with the skilled players.

Before Puryear took the reins in the 2013-14 season, one win a season was the best the very young school could muster. In his first year, the Lions won two games and topped that with three victories last season.

“We have six starters on offense and six on defense returning and we only lost four starters from last year’s team,” he said. “All the other players return with good playing time so I’m pretty confident about our returners.”

On the offensive side of the ball, junior Peyton Bahlinger will be one to keep an eye on.

“Peyton made All-District in his sophomore year as a receiver and I’m looking for him to have an even better year this year. He has great hands, good moves and is just a natural athlete. With his natural abilities, we’re looking to use him in other offensive positions as well, probably take a few snaps and some running back plays.”

Bahlinger, who also plays free safety, will be one of the standouts on defense as well. Another workhorse on the defense will be senior Micah Freeman at inside linebacker.

“Last year, Micah played on the defensive line but he’s so explosive that we made the switch to linebacker,” the coach said. “We believe he’s going to have a breakout year at inside linebacker.”

With only four returning seniors, the field leadership burden will rest on the shoulders of two players.

“Eddie Krass and Seth Mangrum participated in all the summer workouts and they lead by the example they set and the younger guys look up to that,” Puryear said. “They’ve been with us since the ninth grade and they know how we want things done and how to do it, so we’re looking for great things from them.”

There are a couple of young players who will contribute to the team’s success right away this year.

“Sophomore Chris Middleton will be our quarterback this year,” he said. “As a freshman we used him in the wildcat offense and he played some at running back. He learned our offense pretty well, so he fits right in. His size and mobility in the pocket will add a new dimension to our offense.”

Junior defensive back Ricky Martinez will be starting his first game as a Lion; he was at school last year but couldn’t compete.

“Ricky is very quick on his feet, nimble and aggressive; he’ll do good things for us right away at strong safety and running back,” Puryear said. “Last year, we won three games and learned a lot. We got beat pretty good a few times, so we learned how about losing, how to win and made progress by learning to compete, and I think we’ll be pretty competitive this year as well.”

All-State softball

The Louisiana Softball Coaches Association named its All-State Softball Team last weekend. Making the team from Ascension Parish were pitchers Ali McCoy, of Dutchtown; Jessie Watts, of East Ascension; and St. Amant’s Gabby Sharp.

The catcher selected was senior Bria White, of Dutchtown. Infielders chosen were Hope Vezinat, of Dutchtown; Claire Weinberger, of East Ascension; and Kara Gremillion, of St. Amant. In the outfield junior Verlencia Jackson, of East Ascension, was selected, along with utility player Kourtney Gremillion, of St. Amant.

In Class 1A, junior pitcher Julia Beck, of Ascension Catholic, was selected to the roster along with teammates in the outfield Rae’Shaun Melancon and Aimee Parent.

Take it to the bank

One of my favorite ways to experience the outdoors is to take a bank fishing trip. There are many reasons to enjoy a road trip fishing along the bank. First, it’s inexpensive. Fuel cost savings are generally substantial as you don’t have to fill up any boat tanks. Not pulling a boat gives you better gas mileage in the vehicle you’re driving.

Another plus is that all the pressure is gone. Expectations are generally lowered because the train of thought is without a boat, you can’t hardly do as well because your options are limited. Beating the crowd to the launch so you can beat them to the hot spot is out the window as well. Usually there’s no crowd.

The amount of room is another plus. If you’re fortunate enough to have a truck, the tailgate is a bonanza of room to bring just about everything you own that takes in fishing and picnicking. Load them up. Rods, reels, tackle boxes, chairs, ice chests; whatever it takes to make you comfortable can be taken along whether you need them or not. Usually you’re not going to travel away from your vehicle very far, so pack it up.

One of my favorite choices for a road trip is crabbing down the Delacroix Road that follows Bayou Gentilly. Reggio is the first community and this is where the bayou opens up and the fishing spots are easy to find. The road goes about another six miles and it seems to be designed for bank anglers.

I usually keep a few frozen catfish heads in my freezer to use for bait but chicken necks or leg quarters cut up work just fine. Find an open spot along the road and put the lines out with the bait and wait for the action to begin. Man this is fun; when a crab latches on the bait, just pull it in slowly and dip it with the net.

This would be a great place to take a family for an easy day that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to have a lot of fun while catching a few fish and crabs. Word has it that the crabs are running right now and pretty easy to catch.

Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net or ascension@the advocate.com.