Rushing attack lifts Bulldogs to playoff win over Riverside

Michael Tortorich
Ascension Catholic's Khai Prean battles Connor Naquin on a carry. Photo by Michael Tortorich.

Facing Riverside for a second time this season, Ascension Catholic utilized strong running to take a convincing 55-20 victory in the Division-IV first-round playoff game Saturday at Floyd Boutte Memorial Stadium.

A trio of rushers - Jai Williams, Khai Prean and Eric Simon Jr. - led the way, accounting for six touchdowns. Williams compiled 213 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns. Prean contributed 93 yards and two scores. Simon recorded 89 yards and a touchdown. Ten Bulldogs combined for 446 yards on 49 carries.

With the victory over No. 14 Riverside, No. 3 Ascension Catholic (10-0) advances to host No. 6 Southern Lab in the quarterfinal round. There were no upsets in the opening round, so the top eight seeds remain.

Ascension Catholic head coach Benny Saia said he was worried about facing Riverside again.

"I thought we played well on both sides of the football," Saia said. "We were able to get out in front, and it's a lot easier to play in front than behind. I was concerned about playing them a second time because they were prepared for us once and had seen on film some things we've done, but we were able to execute and be okay."

Jacob Dunn started at quarterback in place of Bryce Leonard, who was out with an ankle injury. Dunn went 2-of-4 passing with an interception. Demontray Harry caught a 24-yard pass, and Williams added a 14-yard reception.

Gage Larvadain finished 5-of-19 with three interception. He added 25 rushing yards on 12 carries. Elijah Davis caught three passes for 31 yards.

Brock Acosta, Matthew LaFleur and Harry each intercepted passes.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 27-0 lead before Riverside scored just before the half.

Ascension Catholic stopped Riverside on fourth down on the opening drive, and punched in the first score on a 4-yard Williams run.

On the ensuing kickoff, Trevion Jacob recovered a fumble to give the ball right back to the Bulldogs. The offense struck again when Simon carried around the left side on a 1-yard score.

The Bulldogs extended the lead early in the second quarter when Prean ran around the left side on a 16-yard touchdown.

Harry sparked an electrifying play when he hauled in an interception and dashed 86 yards for a touchdown.

With 1:12 remaining before halftime, Riverside broke into the scoring column when Herbert Keys returned an interception 51 yards for a score.

In the third quarter, Williams added a pair of touchdown runs of 20 and 35 yards.

Keys added a second score when he returned a kickoff 72 yards.

Late in the third, Dunn tacked on another touchdown when he crossed the goal line on a sneak.

Prean had a punt return for a touchdown called back for an illegal block penalty.

After backup players took the field, Larvadain was able to score on a 9-yard run. Larvadain connected with Andre Murphy on the two-point conversion.

Prean capped the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run around the right side.