YOUNGSVILLE — Matt Desormeaux is proud on how his football team refused to give up last season.
Ascension Episcopal found itself down in a pair of games early last year but the Blue Gators refused to lose. There was the last-second 22-21 victory over North Vermilion in Week 3 but the one that better captured AES’s mindset of never giving up was the game the week prior — a 57-54 win over Catholic Point Coupee.
“I was very proud with the way our guys fought for 48 minutes last season,” said Desormeaux who is entering his fourth season at the helm. “In Week 2 against Catholic Point Coupee we were down by like 19 points with three or four minutes left in the game and we came back and won that game. Our guys never gave up. That’s the kind of attitude we need to have this year.”
With 15 starters returning from last year’s team that reached the Division III quarterfinals, there is a strong possibility that the Blue Gators will continue having that mindset.
That plethora of experience returning should serve as a strength for AES.
“We are very fortunate with the amount of experience we have coming back,” Desormeaux said. “It’s very important having that because the only way you get that kind of experience is by playing. Practice is great and practice is important but it is not the same thing as game reps.”
Speaking of game reps, Cole Simon enters his third season as the starting quarterback for the Bleu Gators. After being thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman due to an injury, Simon made strides last season as he threw for more than 2,000 yards and 14 passing touchdown to receive first-team all-district honors.
Desormeaux for one is counting on him to lead on and off the field in 2019.
“He is going to have a big year for us,” Desormeaux said. “He’s also going to have to lead a little bit more now that he is a junior.”
Simon will have plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball as the Blue Gators look to repeat, or improve upon, the 37.5 points per game the averaged in 12 games last season.
Ethan Leoni has been moved from tight end to halfback and will be joined in the backfield by Asa Freeman. Wide receivers Will Kerstetter and Gus Maraist will one up as the primary pass catchers while Kade Guillory and Cole Griffith will anchor the offensive line.
The Blue Gators’ defense returns plenty of firepower as well with seven returning starters, including senior linebacker Blake Pearson who anchors the front seven.
The defense though may be led by the players on the back end which returns three starters in cornerback Eli Fournet, free safety Andrew Stolzenthaler (team-high 3 interceptions in 2018) and first-team all-district free safety Jaime Cordova.
“The strength of our defense will be our secondary,” Desormeaux said. “Those guys communicate really well back there. They are always on the same page and that is of the upmost importance.”
The Blue Gators are hoping that amount of veteran leadership can help them win their first district championship since 2016. AES has lost only one District 7-2A game each of the past two seasons — both times at the hands of Catholic High of New Iberia who has played for back-to-back state titles.
“They are the team to beat,” Desormeaux said. “They are the No. 1 team going into it and they deserve it. They have earned that.”
AES though is not only looking at winning a district title but also something a bit larger in significance — a state championship. The program came close in 2016 when it fell to Southern Lab in Division IV state title game.
“Every year we have the same goals,” Desormeaux said. “We want to defend our house, win the district championship and win a state championship. I think if our guys take care of business, get better and work hard each week then all three of those goals can be accomplished.”
Ascension Episcopal Schedule
9-6 Ascension Episcopal at Erath
9-13 Catholic-PC at Ascension Episcopal
9-20 N. Vermilion at Ascension Episcopal
*9-26 Ascension Episcopal at Jeanerette
10-04 Catholic-NI at Ascension Episcopal
10-11 Ascension Episcopal at Delcambre
10-18 Ascension Episcopal at Houma Christian
10-25 Franklin at Ascension Episcopal
11-01 Ascension Episcopal at Loreauville
11-08 West St. Mary at Ascension Episcopal
*Thursday Night Game