Transition time for Cougars

Published 11:59 am Thursday, July 19, 2018


Daily News

It’s a time of transition for the Lafayette Christian School football program.

Since the program’s inception a decade ago, Lafayette Christian has always played eight-man football.

That will change this season.

Lafayette Christian, with head coach Nate Shaw at the helm, is making the move to 11-man football for the upcoming season.

“There’s really not much difference. It’s just more people, and the spring sort of confirmed that for a lot of guys,” said Shaw, who was an assistant coach at the school before taking over the program in 2015. “It’s going to look a little different. Certain things that we could get away with in certain ways you can’t now, scheme-wise. There’s people in spots that you’re not necessarily used to. But football is football.”

The move to 11-man football does create some more spots in the starting lineup.

“You think about it and there are six players in your starting group who wouldn’t have started,” Shaw said. “That’s a healthy number.”

Lafayette Christian was one of the most successful eight-man programs in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association.

After making trips to the state semifinals in 2013 and 2014 under previous head coach Nick Nehring, the Cougars won the state championship in 2015.

Now Lafayette Christian, along with a handful of other programs in the GICAA, is making the move to the 11-man game.

“The league is really trying to bolster the 11-man teams,” Shaw said. “We don’t want kids saying I can’t come here because I can’t get recruited.”

Even while playing eight-man football, though, Lafayette Christian’s players managed to attract the attention of college coaches.

“Since 2015, we’ve had six players get scholarship offers,” Shaw said. “Not all of them have gone on to play, but that’s quite a bit.”

As for this year’s team, Shaw is confident the Cougars will be able to stand toe-to-toe with most of their opponents.

“Does that mean we’re going to come out and dominate? No,” Shaw said. “We’re still young. We’ve still got a lot to learn. But we feel good about what we have.”

It helps that Lafayette Christian has a senior quarterback in Landon Whitley who has been starting since he was a freshman.

Whitley, in fact, was the starter when Lafayette Christian won the state championship.

Other talented returnees including Mitch Crandall, Amani Jenkins, Cason Firth, Nathan Karvelas, Colin Evert and Nathan Fain should give the Cougars a chance to return to the state playoffs after coming up short a year ago.

“The goal is to make the playoffs,” Shaw said. “We didn’t make the playoffs last year, and we felt like we underperformed. There were at least three games where if a couple of plays go a different way, we come away with those games. And that puts us in the playoffs.”