FAMILIAR FEELING FOR RAMS
Lafayette clinches seventh straight district title
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.
Lafayette's Dea'Mario Tyler, right, carries the ball toward Poquoson's Jake Williams during Saturday's game at Wanner Stadium in James City.