LaFayette boys lock up state playoff berth
The LaFayette Ramblers had plenty of reasons to celebrate after their 4-0 victory last Tuesday night at Jack King Stadium.
For starters, its was their sixth win of the season, giving LaFayette its most wins in a single season since head coach Casey Payne took over the program six years ago. Secondly, it gave LaFayette a season sweep over Ridgeland in the county and region rivalry.
But both those things paled in comparison to reason No. 3 - the LaFayette Ramblers are going back to the Class 4A state tournament.
For the first time in several years, the Orange-and-Black have a secured a ticket to the dance as they are 4-0 in 6-AAAA play with just two region matches remaining.
“We knew at the beginning of the year that we didn’t really have a weak spot on the field,” Payne explained. “About two or three matches into the season, the last time we played at Ridgeland actually, we hit a wave and it hasn’t broken yet. We’ve just kept it going and it’s awesome.”
LaFayette gutted out a 2-1 victory over Ridgeland in a nonregion matchup early in the year, but the Ramblers would take care of business early and often in the rematch.
In the opening minute of the match, Tobey Aggeler took a feed from Julian Murray and knocked home the first goal of the night. Seven minutes later, Ethan Kennedy scored off of a long throw-in by Matthew Newsom and Aggeler would score unassisted in the 15th minute to make it 3-0 and leave the Panthers reeling.
To Ridgeland’s credit, they regrouped quickly and continued to press the attack, but the LaFayette defense would have none of it as the back row made several tremendous plays all night. Keeper Jett Harrison made four saves, two at point-blank range, to preserve the shutout.
The night’s final goal was a repeat of the second goal as a long throw by Newsom dropped right on the forehead on Kennedy, who nudged it past the keeper with approximately 20 minutes to play.
LaFayette would outshoot Ridgeland on the night, 12-4.
The Ramblers still control their own destiny in the region with two matches remaining against powerhouses Southeast (April 12) and Northwest (April 17) who, like LaFayette are also still currently unbeaten in region play. Both of those matches will be played on LaFayette turf.
Regardless of the outcomes of those two matches, however, the Ramblers are assured of no less than a No. 3 seed when the state playoffs
to our program and I’m excited to see what he does at GNTC. I have a lot of respect for (Bobcats head) Coach (David) Stephenson and I’m excited for Stone’s future.”
Graham said personal glory comes second to team glory as far as he was concerned.
“I like to put the team first,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter if I score or if (my teammates) score. It’s about getting the “W” more than anything.”
Stephenson said finding players with attitudes like Graham’s and Byrd’s is becoming increasingly rare.
“You don’t see a lot of team stuff in the game today,” he said. “So for us to get two (team-first) guys in two days is a very good start for next year. Both of these kids just play hard, no matter what the score is, and they make teammates better.
“One of the things we talked about with our guys this past season is having a goal of making your teammates better. When people getting finished playing with you, you want them to say it was a privilege to play with you.”
Stephenson said having a player of Graham’s skill set will allow his Bobcats to do begin next month.
“(Qualifying for state) it’s something that’s very special to me, personally,” said Payne, who played a home state playoff match during his senior season at LaFayette. “These guys have worked hard for it, they deserve it and I know they are all thrilled about it.”
The Lady Ramblers scored a shutout win in the night’s first match. Senior Ashlyn Haggard scored the first two goals for LaFayette, both coming on assists from Bailey Tarvin.
Tarvin scored on a direct kick to cap the scoring with Ashton Stallings getting credit for the assist.
All three goals came in the opening half.
Keeper Shelby Adkins earned the shutout in net with assistance from defensive standouts Kyla Burnette, Gracie Hess, Megan Wilson and Caitlyn Watson.
Angelica Crowe, Katie Carruth and Whitney Boehm had shots on goal for the Lady Panthers (1-9, 0-5). Riley McBee got the start in goal.
LaFayette boys 3, Chattooga 0
The Ramblers (7-2, 4-0) scored a shutout win in the night’s second match on Friday. Wes Ingram had two goals and one Brodie Leiser added one as several starters got the night off.
Parker Lively had an assist and Beau Thrash came up with three saves to secure the shutout.
The Lady Ramblers (6-2, 2-2) blitzed the Lady Indians Friday night at Jack King Stadium. Wilson had a hat trick, including her fourth successful penalty kick of the season.
Tarvin also had a hat trick, while freshman Imani Cook notched a goal in the win.
Darcey Shields collected two assists, while Wilson and Kailee Queen each had one.
LaFayette took 25 shots on goal, while keepers Adkins and Railee Lynn combined for 11 saves on the night.
some different things on the court next season.
“One of the things I want to do with him, Eric and a few more guys that we have coming back is play more man defense and press a lot more,” he continued. “Stone has some size on him and he’s not afraid to get after it. If we can get four or five guys with
that kind of attitude, we can play more man and try and push the ball a lot more.
“We’re excited. We’ve always been able to get good kids from LaFayette and they had a great year this past season.”
Graham said he is considering welding as his course of study while at GNTC.
LFO’s Zach and Christian Vaughn show off some of the haul that earned them second place in the most recent NWGHSAA tournament at Weiss Lake in Centre, Ala. (Contributed photo) LaFayette girls 3, Ridgeland 0
LaFayette senior Ashlyn Haggard looks to get around a Chattooga defender during Friday’s match in LaFayette. The Lady Ramblers racked up seven goals in a 7-2 victory over the Lady Indians and improved to 6-2 overall on the season. (Contributed photo) LaFayette girls 7, Chattooga 2