New-look Bulldog offense flourishing in 2021
The Ascension Catholic offense is scoring plenty of points this season, but that’s not unusual. The Bulldogs have consistently scored in bunches over the years.
But it’s the way Ascension Catholic’s offense is scoring in 2021 that makes it unique.
Over the years, it’s been a dominant rushing attack that has lit up the scoreboard for the Bulldogs. Running backs like Jai Williams, Jamar Barber and Khai Prean have churned out big plays and big yards on the ground.
But this year, Ascension Catholic is doing most of its damage through the air.
With Chris Schexnayder taking over as head coach in 2021, the Bulldogs have transitioned from a Wing-T offense that was heavily dependent on the run to a shotgun-spread attack that airs the ball out.
Third-year starting quarterback Bryce Leonard has flourished in the new system.
In Ascension Catholic’s come-from-behind victory on the road against 4A St. Michael, Leonard threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
He followed that up with another terrific outing against East Iberville last Friday night. In the 57-12 blowout victory, Leonard only played a little more than two quarters, but in that time, he went 11-14 for 216 yards with four more touchdowns.
“He’s come a long way,” Schexnayder said. “It took him a while to get used to this offense. We’ve been running the Wing-T the past two years, which didn’t feature a lot of throwing. But now, we’re so dynamic in the passing game. We have a lot of different ways to get the ball to our athletes. Bryce has really done a good job of commanding that offense and getting the balls in the right spots.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to throw the ball to Prean, who is one of the most-heralded recruits in the 2023 class.
The junior was an all-district running back for the past two seasons. However, he has made the transition to wide receiver in 2021.
Prean has been spectacular in his new role.
In the St. Michael win, he had eight catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. In limited action against East Iberville, he made four catches for 92 yards with another score.
Prean is one of the area’s statistical leaders in receiving yards. In five games played, he has 19 catches for 570 yards and six touchdowns.
He has scholarship offers from household names like Auburn, Michigan and Michigan State.
But teams can’t just focus on Prean. Leonard has plenty of other weapons at his disposal.
In the win over East Iberville, Calvin Delone went off with 95 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
“If everyone is going to keep double-teaming Khai, we’re going to need other people to step up, and Calvin is just so good in space when he gets the ball in his hands,” Schexnayder said.
Ascension Catholic also has Bryce’s twin brother, Brooks—who was an all-district receiver last season.
But the Bulldogs haven’t totally abandoned the run. They can still move the chains on the ground with running backs Adrian Prean and Landon Szubinski.
When the injured Casey Mays returns to action, he should add some explosiveness to the Ascension Catholic rushing attack.
In five games played, the Bulldogs are averaging 36 points per game.
“I think we’ve been executing. We’ve focused on the details and all of the little small things, and we’ve really cleaned up our game,” Schexnayder said. “Our passing game has come around, and that’s what has really been carrying us these last few weeks.”