FA­MIL­IAR FEEL­ING FOR RAMS

Lafayette clinches sev­enth straight dis­trict ti­tle

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By Marty O’Brien mo­brien@dai­ly­press.com

JAMES CITY — Sure, it was ex­pected that Lafayette would bring an­other Bay Rivers Dis­trict cham­pi­onship tro­phy back to the school’s dis­play case this sea­son. Even so, the fact that it will stand next to six oth­ers the Rams won the pre­vi­ous six sea­sons is an im­pres­sive feat.

The Rams clinched their sev­enth straight dis­trict ti­tle on Satur­day at Wan­ner Sta­dium with a 13-3 win over Poquoson. In ad­di­tion, the vic­tory, paired with what is ex­pected to be an easy win over Grafton on Thurs­day in their sea­son fi­nale, should give the Rams (8-0, 7-0 dis­trict) home-field ad­van­tage through the Class 4 state semi­fi­nals if they are able to match 2017 and ad­vance that far.

“It’s great for the kids,” Lafayette coach Andy Linn said of a sixth out­right dis­trict ti­tle to go with the one the Rams shared with Smith­field in 2012. “It’s like I tell the kids, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than com­ing back in 20 years and say­ing, ‘When I was in high school, we won the dis­trict ti­tle four times and never lost it.’”

And while Satur­day’s win did not come eas­ily — it is, in fact, the only game this sea­son the Rams have won by less than 23 points — the is­sue was never in doubt af­ter they took a dou­ble-digit lead in the sec­ond quar­ter. Ter­rific de­fense and ball con­trol were the rea­sons.

The Rams ran 66 plays to the Is­lan­ders’ 30. Lafayette’s de­fense lim­ited Poquoson to 41 to­tal yards and only two first downs.

“Ev­ery­body had to be on their game, be to­gether and not do­ing their own thing,” Rams mid­dle line­backer Trey Canady said of the de­fense’s suc­cess.

Linn said, “Peo­ple need to start re­al­iz­ing that (mid­dle lineback­ers) Trey Canady and Josh Co­ley are two of the best play­ers around here.”

Other guys, like line­backer Timmy Gillen, line­man Kris­tian Wilk­er­son and cor­ner­back Mike Rodgers, came out of the gate de­fen­sively for the Rams. Poquoson’s only of­fen­sive ray of light in the first two quar­ters was Bai­ley Green’s 32-yard gain on a draw, but Gillen, Canady and Rodgers shut the Is­lan­ders down on the next three plays to force a punt.

Poquoson (7-2, 6-2 dis­trict) got good good de­fen­sive play of its own from line­man Porter Doughty, line­backer Nathan Mann and de­fen­sive backs Noah Hunter and Bray­den Hayes. But the Lafayette of­fen­sive line – Caleb Massie, Bryce Copeland, Ed Coombs, Eli­jah Washington, Timmy Gillen, Tommy Gard­ner and Tyler Neville – hit its stride on the team’s sec­ond pos­ses­sion and paved the way the for con­sis­tent gains by Dea’Mario Tyler (102 yards rush­ing).

Zach New, who was 4-of-5 pass­ing for 56 yards in the first half, showed his touch in com­plet­ing a key 13-yard pass to Rodgers. Rodgers had a ter­rific day re­ceiv­ing, with two nice catches un­der heavy pres­sure among his four re­cep­tions for 94 yards. Tyler com­pleted the lone touch­down drive with a 6-yard run as the Rams led 7-0 with 11:54 to play in the first half.

The Rams’ de­fense con­tin­ued to shine in the sec­ond quar­ter, forc­ing short punts (13 and 17 yards) that gave the of­fense good field po­si­tion. Place kicker Trevor Kelle­jian en­sured the Rams cap­i­tal­ized with field goals of 29 and 35 yards – the sec­ond com­ing on the fi­nal play of the first half – as the Rams led 13-0 at in­ter­mis­sion.

The Is­lan­ders (7-2, 6-2) had a chance to get back into the game early in the sec­ond half, when the Rams’ Tyler punted the ball off of one of his block­ers and Evan Gra­ham picked it up for Poquoson at the Lafayette 17. But the Is­lan­ders net­ted only five yards the next three plays and were forced to set­tle for Ethan Sned­don’s 29-yard field goal that made it 13-3 with 6:25 to play in the third quar­ter.

Poquoson went three-and-out on its fi­nal three pos­ses­sions of the sec­ond half. Lafayette iced the game in the fourth quar­ter by con­trol­ling the ball on the ground for 14 plays and and the fi­nal 7:03.

“I don’t think we’re go­ing to face a tougher team than that,” said Is­lan­der coach El­liott Duty, whose team is con­sid­ered a state ti­tle con­tender in Class 2.

Lafayette is ex­pected to con­tend for the Class 4 state crown.

“The ul­ti­mate goal is the state cham­pi­onship,” Canady said.

JONATHON GRUENKE/DAILY PRESS

Lafayette's Dea'Mario Tyler, right, car­ries the ball to­ward Poquoson's Jake Wil­liams dur­ing Satur­day's game at Wan­ner Sta­dium in James City.

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