Second chances and football title-game rematches do not happen every year. The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs are eager to see if this is their year.
Second-seeded ACHS (12-1) meets No. 4 Lafayette Christian (13-0) in the Division IV title game that helps highlight the opening day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic. Game time is 3:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We never took anything or any team for granted. Getting back to this game was the goal these guys set when we started summer workouts,” Ascension Catholic coach Drey Trosclair said. “It really did not matter to us who we played as long as we got back here. But I think playing Lafayette Christian does add a little something to it for both teams.”
The difference the second time around was obvious when the teams arrived for their Wednesday practices. Instead of looking wide-eyed at the Superdome, a video showed ACHS players busy on their cell phones.
Neither team enters the game expecting to see the exactly the same opponent. Things have changed for both since Lafayette Christian claimed a 10-0 victory in the 2017 final.
“Not only are both teams different, I think we’re both better than we were last year,” Trosclair said. “Each team played without key guys who were injured last year. Those guys are back. I think Lafayette Christian is stronger on both their offensive and defensive fronts. I think we’re a more well-rounded team. We like to run the ball, but I think our passing game and special teams are better.”
All the pivotal players are in place. ACHS senior running back Jamar Barber missed the game a year ago because of injuries suffered in a car crash the day before the game. A concussion sidelined junior running back Jai Williams by halftime.
Williams has blossomed into one of the top Class 1A/Division IV runners. He has 2,668 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns, along with 95 tackles as a linebacker. Injuries have slowed Barber, but he has 993 yards and 14 TDs. Barber may play an even bigger role as a defensive back.
The reason? LCA’s Zachary Clement is also back. Clement was injured during the regular season a year ago. He leads the Knights with 1,833 yards passing and 33 TDs, along with 525 yards rushing and nine more TDs. Sage Ryan is the top receiver with 21 catches for 633 yards and 12 TDs. Running back Logan Gabriel adds 1,680 yards and 35 TDs.
Trosclair said special teams and turnovers may be decisive. He said both teams have players capable of turning any kick or turnover into a TD.
“I believe the experience that we gained last year will definitely be valuable for us,” LCA co-coach Trev Faulk, a former LSU player, said. “I don’t believe it (Superdome) will be as big as it was last year.”