Football Preview: Ascension Catholic ready for season

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The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs will start the 2021 season with a new coach and plenty of excitement after a tough ending to the 2020 season with an 22-21 upset loss in the opening round of the Division IV playoffs to Cedar Creek.

“We had a great summer, we have 55 kids out for football, all of our male athletes worked hard this summer as a group, we picked up a few kids that were not sure if they were playing or not, I believe it helped with them all being one as a group” said Coach Chris Schexnayder.

An assistant coach the last nine seasons, takes over for Benny Saia , who retired after leading the Bulldogs the last two seasons. The Bulldogs finished the last two seasons undefeated, however they were knocked out of the postseason short of their goal.

“Our team goal is to win a state championship,” Schexnayder said. “I don’t have to change everything, the program is in good shape. Our focus is to get better each day and we have done that with our summer weights and conditioning.”

Ascension Catholic has a rich pedigree, with three state championships in school history, including in 1941, 1973 and 1992. The Bulldogs reached the Division IV state title game in 1991, 2017 and 2018.

ACHS loses all-state kicker Jacob Dunn, all-parish punter Matt Lafleur and Owen Smith, now at Arkansas Monticello.

“We lost some key guys from last season including our kickers and our entire linebacking crew,” Schexnayder said. “They will certainly be missed and tough to replace.”

The Bulldogs do return some key pieces including all state defensive end J’Mond Tapp and athlete Khai Prean. Tapp is a senior and holds offers from LSU, Alabama, Texas, Oregon and Florida. Prean is a junior who has jumped onto the recruiting scene with early offers from Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs return eight offensive starters including two-year starter at quarterback, Bryce Leonard.

“We will be installing a new spread offense and it is good to have experienced guys to do that, we will still run the ball but our plan is to get the ball to our playmakers in space,” Schexnayder said.

Leonard will have weapons in Prean, running back Casey Mays, wide receiver Brooks Leonard, the twin brother of Bryce Leonard, and wide receiver Lex Melancon.

The offensive line is a real strength, returning four starters in LaShawn Bell, Travis Cedatol, Devin Pedescleaux and Jacques Husers.

”Our offensive line has the potential to be very good, they all got stronger, we want them to play fast,” said Schexnayder.

The defense returns Tapp, Husers and Tre’ Williams up front along with Mays, Leonard, Melancon and Prean in the secondary.

“We have some experience back on defense and have some speed, but we still need to replace some key spots,” Schexnayder said.

The linebackers will be new and early on it looks like Landon Szubinski, Adrian Prean, Thomas Nizzo and Patrick Cancienne are pushing for those spots.

Newcomers to watch include Szubinksi, who will also see time at running back, offensive lineman Deuce Williams, wide receiver Jamiris Breaux, outside linebacker Noah Robichaux, wide receiver and defensive back Layton Melancon, Adrian Prean and slot back and defensive back Calvin Delone.

The kicking game must come together.

Lex Melancon will get the first shot at replacing Dunn while Jackson Landry and Dwayne Landry will compete for the punting job.

With the season close to starting, the staff can sense the excitement.

“They have put the work in, now comes the fun stuff with preparation for actual games, the coaches are confident in this group,” Schexnayder said. “I know they will work and support each other.”

Click here for more CCS Prep Football team previews (including archives of past season preview).

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