Lafayette avoids disaster on final drive, runs past Independence in Class 3 state semifinal

Norm Wood, The Virginian-Pilot
·2 min read

Watching the football hit the soggy turf Saturday at Wanner Stadium late in the fourth quarter of his team’s Class 3 state semifinal against Independence High, Lafayette coach Andy Linn’s heart jumped into his throat.

It was a momentary hiccup in an otherwise satisfying afternoon for Linn.

“The game flashed in front of my face real fast there, buddy,” Linn said. “We got it back, so we’re good.”

After quarterback Luke Hanson recovered a fumbled exchange from center with 1:42 left, Lafayette managed to put the finishing touches on a 17-13 win, propelling the Rams into next Saturday’s state championship game at Wanner Stadium.

Lafayette (8-0) will play for the title against Lord Botetourt, which defeated Liberty Christian 24-22 Saturday.

Miguel Reel, who had 21 carries for 107 yards, helped Lafayette take the lead for good with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter when he scored on a 7-yard touchdown run. Independence (5-2) scored on its next drive via a 3-yard touchdown run by Elijah Tidwell with 6:27 left in the quarter, but Brandon Jefferson blocked the extra-point try to keep Lafayette ahead 14-13.

“We struggled a little bit early on just finding what we wanted to do and figuring out what we wanted to do against them,” Hanson said. “They came out firing like we thought they would.”

Trailing 17-13 with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter after a 36-yard field goal by Lafayette’s Cannon Newell, Independence had a chance to pull it out late, but Lafayette’s defense held strong.

Independence quarterback Brian Courtney, who committed this month to Florida State, was pressured on the drive, which ended on a punt with 3:51 left. Lafayette avoided disaster on the fumbled snap and never gave the ball back to Courtney, who was 8-of-16 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown to go along with 21 carries for 101 yards.

“This whole week, we practiced on shutting him down,” Lafayette linebacker Mike Green said. “We knew they were going to come out with power (runs). We knew they were going to come out with jet-sweep (runs) and bring all their guys to the outside.”

Falling behind 7-0 in the second quarter, Lafayette bounced back with an 11-play drive that featured 10 runs for 80 yards, capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Adrian Warren to tie the game with 2:50 left before halftime.

“It got us back on track,” Linn said. “It got us realizing what we do, and what we do best, is run the football. It kind of sparked us. If we just don’t hurt ourselves with things like holding penalties and silly mistakes, I think we might win a little more comfortably, but not by much more.”

Norm Wood, 757-247-4644,