Sensational season ends with a title

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lafayette Christian claims state championship

By Kevin Eckleberry

The Lafayette Christian School Cougars won the GICAA state championship. Contributed photo Lafayette Christian School Cougars won the GICAA state championship. Contributed photo

LITHIA SPRINGS – They’re the champs.

The Lafayette Christian School Cougars used a dominant effort on both sides of the ball to beat the Central-Christian Crusaders 41-30 on Friday night in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association eight-man state playoffs.

After falling short in the state semifinals the previous two years, the Cougars broke through for their first state title in the eight-year history of the football program.

The Crusaders scored a touchdown late in the third quarter to get within three, but the Cougars strung together two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Central-Christian, which was looking to complete an unbeaten season and win a second straight state title, scored with less than a minute remaining to get within 11, but Lafayette Christian recovered the onside kick and ran one kneel-down play to end it.

The Cougars fell to 3-3 with an overtime loss to Central-Christian in a region game earlier this season, but they ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.

“I’m incredibly proud,” Lafayette Christian head coach Nate Shaw said. “There was a point in the season when we were 3-3. I’m questioning myself, and the coaches are questioning themselves. We knew we might not even make the playoffs, especially with our region. The bottom team in our region ended up 7-3. So we’ve been in playoff mode since then.”

As for the title game, Shaw said his team “played with an edge,” and that was evident.

For Central, it was a disappointing ending to a remarkable two years of football.

The Crusaders won a state championship in an Alabama-based league a year ago, and they were one victory away from back-to-back titles.

“I spoke to them a little bit afterward,” Central head coach Paul Frantz said. “Obviously there are emotions and tears and everything, but I wanted to make sure they understood to be proud of what they did.”

When quarterback Jared Farlow threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Colt Dooley, the Crusaders were within three with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

After forcing a punt, Central Christian got the ball back with a chance to take the lead with a touchdown.

Instead, the Crusaders turned the ball over on downs, and the Cougars took over at midfield.

The Cougars then went on a 10-play, 40-yard drive that ended with an Eli Shepherd touchdown run with 5:26 left in the game, and Morgan Channell’s extra point put the Crusaders in a 34-24 hole.

Lafayette Christian’s defense then came through with a big play.

Jemi Reed, who earlier in the game had an interception return for a touchdown, came up with his second pick of the night, and he returned the ball to the Crusaders’ 9-yard line.

Three plays later, Antaveis Sands scored on a 5-yard run, and Channell made the extra point to give the Cougars a 41-24 cushion with 1:58 to play.

The Crusaders answered with a 65-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a Bailey Todd 3-yard touchdown run, but there were only 21 seconds left.

The Crusaders were in control early.

On the Crusaders’ first offensive possession, Farlow found Dooley for a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the Cougars in a 6-0 hole.

After forcing a Lafayette Christian punt, Central Christian was driving again when Reed delivered one of the biggest plays of the game.

Reed picked off a Farlow pass in the end zone, and he went 80 yards for the touchdown, and the game was tied 6-6 with 1:05 left in the first quarter.

The Cougars took their first lead in the second quarter when Landon Whitley’s 13-yard scoring run capped a 61-yard drive, and it was a 12-6 game with 7:59 left in the half.

It took the Crusaders two plays to tie it

Farlow completed a 57-yard pass to Bailey, and on the next play, Farlow’s 8-yard run pulled the Crusaders even at 12-12.

The Cougars reclaimed the lead, with Shepherd scoring on a 2-yard run, and the senior fullback also ran in the two-point conversion attempt to give his team a 20-12 lead with 1:28 left in the second quarter, and that was the score at the half.

The Crusaders got within two early in the third quarter on a Farlow 10-yard scoring run, and the Cougars maintained a 20-18 lead after stopping the two-point try.

The Cougars answered with a Sands 10-yard touchdown run to cap a 55-yard drive, and Channell made the extra point to make it a 27-18 game with 4:43 to play in the third quarter.

The Crusaders came right back with the big pass play from Farlow to Dooley, and it was a three-point game, but from that point, the Cougars were in control.

“It’s a team full of brothers,” Reed said. “Everybody rallied together. We all had one dream, and we accomplished it.”

OF NOTE: For full coverage of Friday’s games, including photos and stories, see Monday’s sports section and go to