Historic day for Cougars
Published 10:08 pm Thursday, August 16, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a history-making day for the Lafayette Christian School football program.
Lafayette Christian will make its debut as an 11-man football program when it hosts Central Fellowship Christian Academy, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Since the program’s inception 11 years ago ago, the Cougars have played eight-man football, and they’ve enjoyed tremendous success.
At one point the Cougars made it to the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association semifinals four straight years, and they won a state championship in 2015.
Now, Lafayette Christian will try to continue to succeed on the 11-man level, and head coach Nate Shaw doesn’t expect the transition to be that steep.
“It’s going to look a little different,” said Shaw, who has been the head coach since 2015. “Certain things that we could get away with in certain ways you can’t now, scheme-wise. There are people in spots that you’re not necessarily used to. But it’s football. Football is football.”
Shaw added that “we’ve been running 11-man schemes, we’ve just had eight guys out there. So the transition scheme-wise has been pretty simple.”
The Cougars are looking to bounce back from a tough 2017 season.
After reaching the state semifinals for a fourth straight year in 2016, Lafayette Christian went 3-7 last year and missed the state playoffs.
Shaw does feel the team made tremendous improvement as the year went along, and he’s hopeful that will carry over to this season.
“We were a lot better team at the end of the season than we were at the beginning of the season,” Shaw said. “We picked up a couple of wins. We beat a good team. So I think that experience is going to help us.”
While the Cougars lost some key players, it’ll be a veteran team. Leading the way is senior quarterback Landon Whitley, who has been starting since his freshman season when the Cougars won the state title.
Whitley is looking forward to being a part of this historic team.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s going to be different this year. But we’re going to come in with the same attitude we had last year, and hopefully we can do some good things.”
Whitley will be surrounded by some talented skill players, including receivers Nathan Karvelas and Mitch Crandall and running backs Ben Dixon and Amani Jenkins.
Jenkins was one of the break-out players last season.
“You’ve got to watch out for him,” Shaw said. “He really came on the last part of the season. He had several 100-yard games. He broke out against Central, and had like 150 yards in rushing. He is legit fast.”
The Cougars have plenty of experience on defense as well, and the team has some talented veterans on the line of scrimmage.
Despite that experience, Shaw expects there to be some nerves tonight as the Cougars play their first game in nine months.
“It’s that first five minutes of game one,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve had six scrimmages. When you come out and play those first five minutes of the game that’s really going to count on your record, that’s where you start to see things differently, and your chest starts to heave. We’ve just got to get through that first five minutes, and how are you going to react when your brain is scrambled. And then we’ll settle down and play our game.”
This will be a region game today, so a win would give the Cougars a leg-up in their quest to return to the playoffs.
There are five teams in the region, and two of them will qualify for the state playoffs.
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” Shaw said. “We didn’t make the playoffs last year, and we felt like we underperformed.”