Cougars look for first playoff win
by By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
It’ll be an historic night for the Lafayette Christian School Cougars.
For the first time, the Cougars are hosting a playoff game, and their opponent will be Praise Academy from Powder Springs.
The Cougars, who went 6-4 in the regular season, finished second in their region to earn a home game for the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama Athletic Association playoffs.
The winner of today’s game at the Whitesville Road stadium will advance to the semifinals.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a lot better being at home,” said Jeremy Fain, one of four seniors on the team. “We’ll be on our normal routine, and we’ll be ready to play.”
These two teams have a history.
They met in the first round of the playoffs a year ago, with Praise Academy winning 46-6.
They also played in a preseason game this year, and Lafayette Christian hung a lot tougher the second time around in a 38-35 loss.
In the preseason game, the starters played most of the game, and Lafayette Christian head coach Nick Nehring said that performance was big for the mindset of his players.
“It’s given us some confidence, no doubt,” Nehring said. “These seniors especially, they’re more confident than they’ve been in the past.”
The Cougars are looking for their first playoff win, and Nehring believes the team is close to making that happen.
“It’s always been on the road. We’ve had tough draws,” Nehring said. “And this is a tough draw, too. But being at home, and having played them before, we have a lot more confidence.”
Jack Evert, a senior lineman, said this is a “big milestone” for the program.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” Evert said. “I remember four years ago when we were playing our first playoff game in school history. Now to be able to host one is a really big milestone. It’s really exciting. I’m happy we get to be out under the lights at our field.”
Evert said the preseason game against Praise Academy let the Cougars know they can play with a team of that caliber.
“We gained a lot of confidence,” Evert said. “We played them last season for the first time in the playoffs, and we got beat pretty bad. (The preseason game) showed us kind of who we are, and we can play with these guys. I’m excited about getting out there and getting a chance to maybe beat them in the playoffs.”
Another senior, running back Trey Kirkland, said “home field advantage will be a great thing for us. We’ll be comfortable. We’re used to playing over there.”
The Cougars have only lost one game at home this season, so they’re obviously comfortable at the Whitesville Road stadium.
“Homefield advantage for us is always great,” Pike said. “We’ve only had one loss at home. That was the first game.”
The night will be especially meaningful for the four seniors, Fain, Evert, Pike and Trey Kirkland.
Those four players have helped get the program to where it is now.
Pike said it has been a special season for the four seniors.
“It’s probably been my favorite season,” Pike said. “Me, Trey and Jack have played together since middle school when we were 6-0, undefeated. All the guys below us are stepping up, and they’re playing as hard as they can.”
As for the game, the Cougars will receive a lift from the return of junior quarterback Matt Brown, who didn’t play in last week’s regular-season finale.
With Brown at the helm, the Cougars have been an explosive offensive team capable of scoring with anyone.
The Cougars are healthy, they’re confident, and there’s only one thing left to do.
“We’re ready to play football,” Kirkland said.
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