Ascension Catholic completes undefeated season with win over St. John

Michael Tortorich
St. John's John Bueche bobbles a pass as Ascension Catholic's Brock Acosta defends.

Ascension Catholic finished the regular season 9-0 with a 62-6 victory over district rival St. John on Thursday night.

The 2019 Bulldogs, with veteran head coach Benny Saia in his first year at the helm, became just the second undefeated team in school history. The 1968 team, led by coach Bucky Mistretta, also finished 9-0. The current team is in rare company considering Ascension Catholic has fielded football teams since 1927.

Also, Ascension Catholic clinched the District 7-1A title. The Bulldogs won their first district crown since 1994.

"I feel great," Saia said. "I'm so proud. The first time I met with these guys, I asked them to write down their goals. You'd be amazed at how many wrote 9-0. To go all the way through the season and not have a hiccup, that's pretty good. Now we have to go a few more without a hiccup."

Ascension Catholic senior Jai Williams scored three touchdowns Thursday, surpassing the school record for career touchdowns. His father, Germaine Williams, set the previous record in 1990.

The senior running back tied his dad at 100 touchdowns with 10:31 left in the first quarter on a 26-yard run up the middle. Later in the first, he broke the record on a spectacular 30-yard scoring carry. Williams added a third touchdown on a 51-yard scamper in the second quarter.

"I'm so happy for him," Saia said. "I meant what I said earlier (to the team). He's as good as any player I've ever coached. And I've coached some good ones. He sacrificed some this year with the new offense we're in. He's second in the area in rushing, and he's got half the carries. I'm hoping the fresh legs will pay off in the playoffs. He's a special guy. I'm not sure if he's better on offense or on defense."

The Bulldogs were able to score in bunches in the first half. After Williams opened the scoring, quarterback Bryce Leonard tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Khai Prean around the left side.

After Williams scored for the second time, Prean struck again with a 10-yard touchdown run to the right.

Demontray Harry came down with an interception and returned it to set up the Bulldogs in the red zone at the 9. The fifth touchdown came on the next play with 3:30 left in the first quarter when Eric Simon Jr. scored on a 9-yard touchdown run on a misdirection play.

In the second quarter, after Williams scored his third touchdown, Prean picked up a loose ball on a punt return and weaved his way 61 yards for another score.

With 1:10 to go in the first half, Dorian Barber checked in at running back and dashed 36 yards for a touchdown.

St. John was able to break the shutout with 5:22 remaining when Isaiah Jones scored on a 3-yard keeper.

Casey Mays added a 21-yard touchdown run with 1:15 left in the game.

Williams finished with 120 yards on five carries, while Mays had 65 yards on six carries.

Leonard went 2-of-4 passing for 76 yards. Along with Prean's 40 yards, Joel Landry hauled in a 36-yard reception.

Jones led the Eagles with 65 yards on eight attempts. He was 5-of-19 passing for 73 yards.

Nick Daigle caught two passes for 36 yards. Galvin Martin added an 11-yard catch.

Though St. John had its struggles, Eagles head coach Eric Holden remained positive about the team continuing to improve.

"We had a lot of young guys, and this season was marred with injuries," Holden said. "We had 15 first-year players on the team this year, which is always interesting when you roll them out there. There's been a lot of learning, and a lot of growth this year. Even though our record doesn't show it, we did make some strides this season. With all the young guys coming back next year, we should take a couple more steps forward in getting this program turned around."

For the Bulldogs, the outlook is on the playoffs.

"Everybody is 0-0," Saia said of the postseason. "We have to take them one at a time, put them to bed, and go to the next one. You get to looking ahead of yourself, and you won't get there. I'm really excited for what they've accomplished, and I think it's just the beginning."