Seniors eye championship run
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A year ago, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars played for a state championship on their home field, and it wasn’t their night.
After winning a semifinal thriller over Cherokee Christian, Lafayette Christian lost to Life Christian Academy in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association Class A championship game.
Flash forward a year ago and the Cougars are preparing for another playoff run, and they’re hoping for a happier ending this time around.
Lafayette Christian (6-2), which won a region title to earn home-field advantage in the state playoffs, will host Georgia Christian on Friday night in a first-round game.
If Lafayette Christian wins, it will host either Griffin Christian or John Hancock in the championship game on Nov. 15.
Leading the way for the Cougars are a group of seniors who have been a part of plenty of successful moments over the years.
The seniors are Nathan Hudson, Nathan Fain, Rich Willimon, Colin Evert and Danny Yarbrough, and they’ve each contributed to a program that has been one of the best in the GICAA for a decade.
After finishing second in the state last season, the Cougars look like a team fully capable of winning the program’s second state championship.
It helps that the Cougars won’t have to leave their home field as they try to chase down the big prize.
“It feels really good, first of all to close out your senior year with a potential state win, and especially to do it on our home field,” said Nathan Hudson, the Cougars’ starting center.
Hudson has done his part to help the Cougars reach this point.
While he doesn’t play the flashiest position on the field, his role is a critical one, and head coach Billy Bryant appreciates the stability he’s brought to the team.
“We’ve only had one snap that wasn’t right on target. He has helped us out in that area,” Bryant said. “Last year, our snapping was a weakness, and we wanted to address that and get that taken care of early this year. Nathan came back and went through our summer training program and got stronger, and he’s a very intelligent young man. He has helped us tremendously.”
One of Hudson’s teammates on the offensive line is Rich Willimon, and he knows how close the end is for he and the other seniors.
“This game could be my last game,” Willimon said. “I don’t want it to be. I want to have one last game, the championship game, to end it on.”
Danny Yarbrough, an offensive lineman, has enjoyed his first season as a football player, and he’d love to see his teammates who’ve been there for years celebrate a title.
“It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to them because they’ve been doing it a lot longer,” Yarbrough said. “Hopefully we’ll do it for them.”
Nathan Fain has done an outstanding job as the Cougars’ quarterback this season, and he leads a dynamic offense that scores 34 points per game.
Because of the success the Cougars enjoyed in the regular season they’ll have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and Fain said that’s “really exciting.”
“To me, it’s a product of how well this team has played together all season,” Fain said. “If we hadn’t won all of our games that we did, we wouldn’t be here.”
A high-scoring offense is a big reason why the Cougars could end up hoisting the championship trophy.
Fain, along with running backs Ben Dixon and Cason Firth, gives the Cougars some big-time play-makers in the offensive backfield
“With Ben and Cason in the backfield, it’s given me an opportunity to let them soften up the defense and respect us a little bit,” Fain said. “If I get a chance to throw the ball it makes it a lot easier.”
One of the seniors, Colin Evert, wasn’t at practice on Tuesday while he recovers from an illness, but he’ll be on the field on Friday night.
Evert will anchor the offensive line, helping open holes for the Cougars’ talented running backs while giving Fain time to throw the ball.
Evert also helps close down holes as a defensive lineman.
“He’s been in the program for years,” Bryant said. “He’s been on the offensive and defensive line, and he has helped us out tremendously. He has been a leader on the team. There’s a lot of things he has brought to the table.”
If Lafayette Christian beats Georgia Christian, it would likely play Griffin Christian for the state championship.
In the final regular-season game, Lafayette Christian beat Georgia Christian 21-20 in a game that determined home-field advantage.
“The way the team responded and won that game gives me the confidence that we’ll have a shot,” Fain said.
OF NOTE: For a preview of Lafayette Christian’s first-round game, see Thursday’s sports section