Lafayette QB Luke Hanson and Head Coach Andy Linn (Photo: Thomas Matzke/recruit757)
Lafayette and Independence battled to the wire
by Jim McGrath, recruit757 and recruitNoVA
In a game which qualifies as an instant classic, Lafayette was taken to the hilt by Independence, but a Luke Hanson fumble recovery in the game’s final two minutes sealed a Class 3 championship game berth for the Rams, who nipped the upstart Tigers 17-13 at Williamsburg’s Wanner Stadium on Saturday.
With the win, Lafayette (8-0) will host Lord Botetourt, a 24-22 winner over Liberty Christian in the other semifinal next Saturday.
Indy struck first, as Florida State commit Brian Courtney tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Josh Hand. The extra point gave the Tigers an early 7-0 edge.
Lafayette responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that took up a huge chunk of the second quarter, culminated by Adrian Warren’s 10-yard scoring run with 2:50 left in the opening half, which ended with the score knotted at seven.
The Rams relied heavily on their running game, carrying the ball 42 times for 220 times. Miguel Reel (21 rushes, 107 yards) put Lafayette in the lead with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter with a seven-yard touchdown run to put the hosts on top 14-7.
The Tigers struck back immediately, needing just over two minutes to respond, as Elijah Tidwell scored from three yards out. However, the Rams’ Brandon Jefferson got a hand on the extra-point kick to keep the Rams ahead 14-13.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cannon Newell added three more points with a 36-yard field goal, putting the Rams ahead 17-13.
The Tigers had one final chance to score the game-winning touchdown, but the Ram defense held Courtney (8-16, 79 yards, TD, 21 carries, 101 yards) and the offense in check, forcing a punt with just under four minutes left in the game.
Lafayette would face one more nerve-wracking moment when Ram quarterback Luke Hanson fumbled the center snap near midfield with 1:42 remaining. Hanson recovered the fumble, allowing the Rams to run out the clock.
Despite the finish, Independence (5-2) capped its second season of varsity football in an unlikely spot, after starting their inaugural season 0-8, before winning two games to qualify for a playoff spot. Ram coach Andy Linn was impressed with the quick progression of the Tigers.
“As I told their coach (R.J. Windows), they’ve done a great job getting the kids out and running a system. They took their lumps last year but stuck with it and it has paid off. They’ll continue to get better.”
– Jim McGrath