YOUNGSVILLE — Highland Baptist held Ascension Episcopal to a three-and-out on its first possession of the game, but it was all downhill from there.
The Blue Gators (8-0, 5-0) scored on their next eight possessions, rolling up more than 400 yards by the end of the first half. Highland Baptist (5-3, 2-3) couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace, and Ascension Episcopal remained undefeated with two weeks to go in the regular season.
“I felt like it was going to be one of those things where if we play well on offense, they were going to have to keep up,” Ascension Episcopal coach Mike Desormeaux said. “Their offense eats up a little more clock, takes a little more time. That was the plan — to get out here and get on, get some points on the board. We were able to do that.”
On senior night in Youngsville, it was the seniors who stole the show.
Running back Ja’Ceiry Linzer lit the fuse for the Ascension Episcopal offense with a 59-yard touchdown run over right tackle in the first quarter, bursting through a big hole and outrunning the Highland Baptist defense to the end zone.
It was one of eight rushes of 10 or more yards for Linzer, who pummeled Highland Baptist for 216 yards on 18 carries.
But it was a two-way show for Ascension Episcopal, which was just as comfortable hitting the Bears over the top in the pass game as they were busting through tackles on the ground.
With Louisiana-Lafayette coaches Mark Hudspeth and Jay Johnson watching from the sideline, quarterback Jake Arceneaux, a Ragin’ Cajuns commit, spent the first three quarters dissecting the Highland Baptist defense.
The first of his three touchdown passes to receiver Ronald LeBlanc came on a third-and-10, when he rolled to his right and fired to LeBlanc, who juked his man and waltzed into the end zone to make it 14-0.
Highland Baptist showed some life on the ensuing kickoff, when Brontre Griffin, the state’s leading rusher, broke through the first wave of tacklers and easily outran the Ascension Episcopal coverage for a 90-yard kick return.
But the Blue Gators answered right away. Andre Roth, spelling Linzer for a moment, ran for 40 yards on three straight carries, the last of which was a 15-yard score to put the Blue Gators ahead 21-0.
Arceneaux capped the first half with three more touchdowns, one of which was a laser on a post to LeBlanc, who spun out of a tackle attempt and raced 59 yards for the score.
The Blue Gators led 42-6 at halftime and tacked on two more scores in the second half to win going away. They had 600 yards of total offense before dipping back into the 500s with a pair of kneel-downs to end the game.
“We knew going into the game they have a great quarterback, a couple real good receivers,” Highland Baptist coach Artie Liuzza said. “We knew if that wasn’t working for them, then they had the big back in Ja’Ceiry. We knew it was a double-edged sword.”
This was all despite yet another outstanding performance from Griffin, who topped 2,000 rushing yards on the season with yet another 200-plus yard effort.
Griffin finished with 209 yards on 29 carries, the bulk of which came on a 60-yard burst through the heart of the Ascension Episcopal defense in the third quarter. But in a relative sense, this was Griffin’s version of being held in check.
“We told our kids that he’s going to get some, he’s going to have some yards, he’s going to have some nice plays,” Desormeaux said. “I think we made him earn pretty much everything.”
With the loss, Highland Baptist’s slim hopes of contending for the district title were officially put to bed.
The Blue Gators will aim to keep perfection alive next week against Lafayette Christian.