Cougars fight for spot in title game
LAGRANGE – If the plan comes together today, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars will be back on their home field next week playing for a state championship.
First things first.
Lafayette Christian, after getting a win over Harvester Christian last week in the opening round of the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association eight-man state playoffs, will be back on the road today to play Holy Ground Baptist Academy in a final-four matchup.
If Lafayette Christian wins, it would play for the state championship on its home field on Nov. 18 against either Colonial Hills or Peachtree Academy, who are facing off in today’s other semifinal.
Today’s challenge against an unbeaten Holy Ground team is a massive one.
“They’re really good, and they’re well-coached,” Lafayette Christian head coach Nate Shaw said. “I like Jamie Perry a lot. He’s the coach over there. We have a good mutual respect for each other.”
Shaw said Holy Ground’s team reminds him of his own.
“They run the ball, they’re physical, and they play defense,” Shaw said. “They’re cut out of the same cloth we are really. They run a little bit more misdirection than we do. But they play defense, they play field position. They run the ball. They throw it when they want to. And they’re going to hit you. They’re good on special teams.”
Lafayette Christian, which won last year’s GICAA state championship, kept its season alive with a 36-22 road win over Harvester Christian.
Sophomore quarterback Landon Whitley had a pair of scoring runs for Lafayette Christian, and Jess Hill and Nick Spitler also had touchdown runs.
The Cougars also got a defensive touchdown, with Gary Johnson scooping up a fumble and returning it for a score.
This is the fourth consecutive season the Cougars have made it at least as far as the semifinals, and a year ago they broke through for a championship.
That this year’s team would reach this point was far from a given.
Lafayette Christian was hit hard by graduation following the 2015 season, and this year’s team had a losing record during the regular season.
The Cougars are playing their best football of the season right now, though, and they’re also as healthy as they’ve been all year.
Senior linebacker and tight end Josh Shepherd, who missed three games with a knee injury, has played in the past two games.
“We’re really healthy, and that’s a good thing,” Shaw said. “Josh is back, and that’s huge. He made a big difference last week. He can get out there and catch the ball, too.”
Shaw said getting a win last week was important for this team.
“Last week was validating,” Shaw said. “It was a validating win for our season. Even though we’ve gone out and played good teams. You don’t want to play the good teams and lose respectively, you want to beat them.”
Shaw said a key to last week’s win was the performance of offensive linemen Knox Evert, Job Tendo and Luke Gilmore.
“They did a great job last week,” Shaw said. “And it’s taken them a little bit too gel. And they’ve been sort of under-appreciated this year. We’ve been changing our scheme a little bit more this year. We’ve had some growing pains as a result of that. And we’ve played such a tough schedule.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports