Cougars get breakthrough win in title rematch
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 4, 2016
SHARPSBURG – They’re on the board.
After opening the season with back-to-back losses, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars went on the road and handled Central-Christian 40-16 on Friday in a rematch of last year’s Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association eight-man state-championship game.
The Cougars got a fumble return for a touchdown by Gary Johnson, a kickoff return for a score by John Parham, Nick Spitler had three combined touchdowns (two rushing, and one receiving), and Jess Hill had a scoring run.
Lafayette Christian is off this week, and it returns to the field on Sept. 16 for a key region home game against CrossPointe Christian Academy.
“We fixed our running game a little bit,” Lafayette Christian head coach Nate Shaw said. “We had success running the ball, which we had really struggled the previous weeks. That was what we needed. We needed to get it going, and we’ll need to get it going against Crosse Pointe in two weeks.”
Hoping to get off to a quick start, Lafayette Christian did just that, with Johnson, a senior defensive lineman, picking up a fumble and rumbling 60 yards for the score.
Central Christian responded with a touchdown and a two-point conversion to go up 8-6, but it only took Lafayette Christian a few seconds to reclaim the lead, with Parham returning the kickoff 60 yards for the score.
Quarterback Landon Whitley then completed the two-point conversion pass to Josh Shepherd, and Lafayette Christian had a 14-8 lead.
“We never looked back from there,” Shaw said.
The return touchdown is part of a continuing early-season trend for the Cougars.
“We’re returned three kickoff returns for touchdowns,” Shaw said. “It’s not that they’ve been lucky. We’ve been blocking ‘em up. We’ve had success. People seem to keep kicking to us.”
Shaw said a key to success in Friday’s game was the performance of the offensive line, which is starting to come together.
“We hit the line of scrimmage with speed, and our offensive line really blocked well for the most part,” Shaw said. “It really opened some running lanes. It was the first time we really gelled as an offense.”
Shaw said offensive linemen Luke Gilmore, Knox Evert and Nathan Hudson each exceled in Friday’s game.
“They have really gelled together in the interior of our offensive line,” Shaw said.
Whitley, Lafayette Christian’s sophomore quarterback, did a terrific job of running the offense.
He had a touchdown pass and no interceptions, and he ran for more than 50 yards.
“We only threw it a handful of times,” Shaw said. “He had a good completion percentage, ran the ball very well.”
On defense, linebacker Avery Staples had a big effort with 18 tackles.
“He was everywhere. He was a machine,” Shaw said of Staples, who transferred from Central Christian. “He’s finally settling into the system. He’s had a good season, but he kind of went off on Friday. He’s going to be a force the rest of the season.”
Also, freshman safety Nathan Fain had a pair of interceptions.
“The light sort of went off for him how to play safety,” Shaw said. “He’s going to be a big player for a few years for us.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports