Cougars gear up for another title run
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The countdown’s growing short for the Lafayette Christian School Cougars.
Assuming nothing changes, and there are no guarantees this year, Lafayette Christian will kick off a new season on Sept. 4 against Griffin Christian in a rematch of last year’s state-championship game.
“Our attitude is, if there’s a season, we’re going to be ready,” said Billy Bryant, who is heading into his second season as Lafayette Chrisitian’s head coach. “They’re going to compete, and they’re going to be ready to play.”
Expectations are high for the Cougars, who have reached the state-championship game
the past two years, only to fall short.
In last year’s championship game, Lafayette Christian lost a 19-13 heart-breaker to Griffin Christian after losing a fumble on a potential game-winning drive in the closing moments.
In 2018, Lafayette Christian also made it to the championship game before falling to Life Christian Academy 44-0.
Leading the way for this year’s team are a group of seniors who have helped the Cougars enjoy so much success over the past few years.
“(The seniors are) the leaders,” Bryant said. “They know the team. They know the expectations. They’ve been to the dance twice before. They’ve been denied. Those guys are hungry. Those eight seniors are blazing the trail.”
The seniors are W.J. Bailey, Ben Dixon, Cameron Elliott, Cason Firth, Nathan Karvelas, Kamal Parham, Cade Parnell and Luke Taunton.
“Those guys, they lead the way in practice,” Bryant said. “If they mess up, whether the coaches say anything or not, they want to do it again to get it right. That’s setting the tone for our underclassmen.”
While the seniors will no doubt be vitally important to this year’s team, the underclassmen will have a key role to play as well.
One of those underclassmen is junior Jacob Karvelas, who will hold down the quarterback position, and Bryant believes he has everything it takes to succeed.
“He has mobility. He has agility. He has strength,” Bryant said. “And he will not back down from anyone. I believe I could put him head-to-head with somebody on the collegiate level. He knows he may not win the battle, but he’s not going to back down.”
Bryant added that Karvelas “can run the ball, he can throw the ball, and he does so with accuracy. That’s one of the things we’ve been tweaking with all our quarterbacks is timing, pass routes. We didn’t emphasize it as much last year. We saw some deficits this last year that we concentrated on in the offseason.”
Another underclassmen Bryant believes will make an impact is freshman running back Ephraim Snyder.
“He’s someone we’re looking to develop as a freshman,” Bryant said. “He is an athlete. He’s going to be really good. He’s one of those people that brings athleticism to the table, and he doesn’t ask if I can play. He comes and says I’m here, and I’m going to play.”
There’s no doubt the seniors will likely dictate how far this team goes, though.
One of those seniors is Tyson Karvelas, part of a talented defensive backfield that also includes Alex Tusing, Nathan Karvelas and Elliott.
“He’s a small-framed guy, but he’ll unload on you,” Bryant said of Tyson Karvelas. “He went up against a 6-foot-4 guy at Georgia Christian, and that guy thought he was going to push him around. He got a rude awakening. Tyson is quick, and he’s agile, and if he’s anywhere around the ball, he’s going to put his hands on you.”
Another senior leader is Ben Dixon, who will be asked to take on a new role this season.
Dixon, a talented running back, has been moved to center to fill a void at that position.
“We’ve had problems for the last two years with consistency at center,” Bryant said. “We had guys that could snap the ball, but couldn’t block. We had guys that could block but couldn’t snap. The coaches were looking at our personnel, and we thought this is the best way to help the team.”
Every player on the team will contribute, and many of them will play significant time on both sides of the ball, so conditioning has been a big part of the summertime program for the Cougars.
“Everybody will see playing time,” Bryant said. “Of the eight seniors, seven of them are starting on both sides of the ball. So our guys knew we had to get into shape.”
The Cougars have settled into their after-school practice routine the past two weeks, and as has been the case all summer, the coaches will remain diligent about putting the health and safety of the players first.
“We have guidelines we follow,” Bryant said. “Our administration, our coaches, we’re all following the guidelines. All the coaches out here are wanting to step up here and do what’s right.”