Behind a huge performance from senior running back Jai Williams on the ground and a steady defense, Ascension Catholic rolled to a 35-22 victory.

Ascension Catholic was shorthanded on Friday night as they took on Riverside in their home opener. They were without first-team all-district lineman Nick Hilliard, who sustained a high ankle sprain in week one.

Without him anchoring both the offensive and defensive lines, the Bulldogs’ depth in the trenches took a big hit. Guys were asked to step up and give all they had, plus a little extra.

They made it look easy against the Rebels.

Behind a huge performance from senior running back Jai Williams on the ground and a steady defense, Ascension Catholic rolled to a 35-22 victory.

“We had no subs tonight,” Bulldog head coach Benny Saia said. “Riverside only played one guy both ways tonight, and we played everybody both ways. They sucked it up and made it happen. I told them that we weren’t using that as an excuse. We’re going to play our tails off and overcome it, and that’s what they did.”

Ascension Catholic caught Riverside by surprise early on as they played their entire first three offensive drives with Williams as wildcat quarterback. The Bulldogs scored two touchdowns on those three possessions.

On the opening drive, it took them just five plays to score as Williams broke free on a 51-yard scoring scamper down the sideline.

The next time they had the ball, they scored in four plays. Again, Williams found his way into the end zone—this time from 16 yards out to put the Bulldogs ahead, 14-0, late in the first quarter.

“It really worked for us,” Saia said. “We’ve been working on it. We feel like it’s a good change of pace for us. That 33 (Williams) is pretty good, and 2 (Khai Prean) is pretty good, too—also 23 (Dorian Barber). We have some skill guys that can run a little bit.”

Up 14-7 midway through the second quarter, Ascension Catholic began a drive at their own 40-yard line. They quickly marched downfield, and on the seventh play, a pass was batted by a Rebel defender and caught by Barber in the end zone for a 10-yard score.

Williams converted the two-point try to give the Bulldogs a 22-7 lead at halftime.

Ascension Catholic took command of the game to begin the third quarter.

They took the ball to start the half and on their fifth play, Williams busted a 40-yard touchdown run to put them ahead, 29-7.

To start the fourth quarter, Williams put the finishing touches on a superb outing as he added a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 35-7.

Riverside scored two late touchdowns to make the score look closer. One of those scores came on the final play of the game.

The Ascension Catholic offense piled up 432 yards. They had two ball-carries go over 100 yards rushing.

Williams led the way as he ran for 218 yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries. Prean chewed up 103 yards on 14 rushes.

“I love where we’re at, and we’re still not close to being what we need to be,” Saia said. “We’re going to continue to get better as we go. I think we’re pretty dangerous offensively, and really, our defense only held them to seven points. That’s amazing. Coach Chris Schexnayder and that defensive side of the ball did a great job.”

This week, the Bulldogs will visit Slaughter Charter. Slaughter is still seeking their first victory.