SPORTS

Bulldogs sniffing for state, district title

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @dvillechief

In just his first year as head coach of the Ascension Catholic High Bulldog football team, Doug Moreau had the team sitting in playoffs with a 7-4 record. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were sent back to Donaldsonville in the first round after a 42-14 loss to Westminster Christian. Now in year two, Moreau and the Bulldogs come back hungry, and with a restructured district 8-1A and an automatic playoff spot, deservedly so.

“We’re going to be a stronger football team,” Moreau said, entering his 27th season as head coach.

He said the Bulldogs had a good year on the weights and it’s starting to show in some of the kids, “they’re working hard.”

Moreau said Ascension Catholic lost some lineman last year in graduation, “some key people” and the team’s success will depend a lot on how it replaces those guys.

“We have some players to replace them, and that’s where the weights come in,” Moreau said. “They won’t be real big but they have to be strong, quick and real solid in their assignments.”

The Bulldogs return a lot of people in the skill positions offensively, and that’s where they’re going to focus up what they’re doing as far as moving the ball, Moreau said.

Defensively, the team will play in a 3-5-3 defense because “we’re trying to get all our speed people on the field.”

The Bulldogs have four linebackers that played last year, and they’re all back: three starters and one who can take the place of any of them.

Moreau said one player in particular has really been stepping up and has become a leader.

“Gilbert Allen has really been setting the world on fire,” Moreau said. “We moved him from safety to cornerback and he’s had a great great fall camp. He’s definitely one of our leaders.”

Leading the Bulldogs defense from the sidelines this year will be Chris Schexnayder, who is no stranger to the school. Moreau said Shexnayder is young, enthusiastic and he knows the game well.

“We’ve studied this defense that’s similar to what Parkview Baptist does and I like the things that Parkview did and he’s incorporating that,” Moreau said about Schexnayder’s defensive strategy.

Leading the defense on the field is senior linebacker Sam Mattingly. Mattingly said this summer was the hardest he’d ever worked out in his life.

“We got into two-a-days and we worked harder than any team in the state, I promise,” Mattingly said. “We gave everything like it was our last, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been that we’re ready.”

Mattingly said the team is a lot more “schooled up on what we do.” Last year was the team’s first time doing some of the things Moreau exposed to them, but this year they are more familiar, “we’re ready and we have a feeling about ourselves.”

“We know that we have to go out there and prove something,” Mattingly said. “We’re not just looking to play in the playoffs, we’re looking to go further than that.”

When asked about the team’s new defensive coordinator, Schexnayder, Mattingly said he’s “nuts.”

“He’s insane, but it’s a good crazy,” Mattingly said. “He knows everything there is to know about the defense and he’s really pushing us to go 100 percent. He wants us to be violent, he wants us to be out there and mentally tough but we couldn’t ask for a better defensive coordinator.”

The Bulldogs’ defense went through some major ups and downs last year, and ultimately left a lot of points on the scoreboard, especially in the playoff loss. Mattingly said he’ll do all he can to prevent that this year.

“Every play, 100 percent all out no matter what,” Mattingly said. “Our defense left a lot of points on the board last year and we have to get it back. It’s just as important that our defense is quick and violent.”

Winning the district title won’t come easy for Ascension Catholic either, despite a district realignment, the team still faces its same strong opponents in West St. John and White Castle.

“West St. John is big and they’re fast but it’s not about that, it’s about who wants it more,” Mattingly said. “We work just as hard as them and just as hard as anybody else. I know if we go out there and play like we can, we can play with anybody.”

On the offensive side of the ball senior D.J. Latino will be leading the Bulldogs from the quarterback position. He said the team is looking good so far through fall camp and “we’re in good shape.”

“Everybody knows their plays and everything is coming together, we’re just ready to get out there and test it all out,” Latino said.

The 2013 season will begin the second year together Latino and Moreau have been the leaders of the Bulldogs’ team and Latino said the growth of the relationship with Moreau is “night and day.”

“I understand what he tells me and wants me to do and he understands me so we are working out fine,” Latino said.

Latino said the team isn’t looking at the big picture, “we’re looking just at every single play and doing what we need to do in it and going as hard as we can, and whatever happens, happens.”

Moreau said wingback and cornerback Allen has really turned it on this year and has seen much improvement in field play and leadership from the senior. Allen said he had to work on a few things during the offseason to help make a better impact for the team.

“I think we’ll do pretty good if we keep working hard,” Allen said. “We want it just as bad as anybody else, if not more. I think we’ll do pretty good and go far in the playoffs, just take it one play at a time.”

Allen said West St. John is always pretty good and pretty fast, “but we’re pretty good and pretty fast too.”

“We can stick with them and we can beat them, nothing is impossible,” Allen said.

Allen said the Bulldogs’ coaching staff has been stressing to work harder than everybody else, don’t give up and “encourage your teammates.”

“Don’t change on each other because we have to get past adversity at all times.”

Moreau said the team’s goals are accomplished coming into the season:

“We want to be physically conditioned and mentally conditioned, we got that accomplished.”

Moreau added: “All of our coaches are doing a good job, they’re working together hard and they have the brotherhood, they’re feeling close to each other, and our players are the same way.”

Moreau said the Bulldogs have a group of kids who are close to one another and that makes for a “good fighting unit.”

“They really care about each other, so I think the coaches are setting a good example in that regard.”

Mattingly added, “Watch out for us because we’re coming.”