Trinity is good. Lafayette has first-hand confirmation of that.
On Sept. 2, the Shamrocks came to Lexington and quickly handed the Generals their first and only loss, 45-7. Trinity led 35-0 after the first half.
The schools meet again Saturday night in Bowling Green for the Class 6A state football championship.
Eric Shaw, in his fourth season as the head coach at Lafayette after 12 years as an assistant with the program, said his players were not intimidated by Trinity earlier this season. Caught up in the aura surrounding a program that’s won 23 state titles, tied with Highlands for the most in state history? Perhaps.
“I’m not taking anything away from them, I know they’re really, really good,” Shaw said of the Shamrocks. “I do believe that that comes into play when you’re playing a team like that. If there’s any doubt or uncertainty about what you’re supposed to do, they’re gonna take advantage of it and expose it. I think that’s what happened this year.”
Trinity’s disciplined play is as consistent as its win streak against Lexington competition. Bryan Station was the last team from Lexington to get a win over the Shamrocks, beating them 31-21 in the 1999 playoffs. They’re 16-0 against city teams since Bob Beatty took over in 2000, hence the mystique that can creep in and cloud players’ judgment.
“They’re a long way ahead. We see ’em in the horizon but we gotta catch up. Preferably we catch up Saturday.”
Lafayette football coach Eric Shaw, on Trinity’s football dominance
What makes Trinity everlasting is how much attention it pays to the fundamentals, Shaw said. The Shamrocks aren’t going to lend you a hand in beating them by committing penalties or making bad decisions. Bringing in high-caliber talent like Rondale Moore and Stephen Herron, transfers who hold multiple offers from big colleges, and mixing it with that sound commitment makes for a juggernaut.
Talent is one area in which Lafayette, and Lexington as a whole, is at least in the same ballpark. That’s part of what helped the Generals become the first Lexington public school to ever make back-to-back finals trips.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years here in Lexington and there’s been a lot of great, talented players here, not just at Lafayette but through the city,” Shaw said. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together. It’s like a body. You’ve got two legs and maybe one arm and you need another one to turn the door.”
Putting the puzzle together means continued emphasis on instilling good habits at the youth level, something Louisville has long done. Shaw said he’s seen a big improvement since he’s been in Lexington, especially in the last couple of years, but it can still get better.
“We’re still trying to figure it out, we’re still trying to catch up,” Shaw said. “They’re a long way ahead. We see ’em in the horizon but we gotta catch up. Preferably we catch up Saturday.”
Offense the key?
Several teams rushed and passed for more yardage against the Generals this season than Trinity did in September, but Lafayette’s offense produced atypical numbers in that first meeting: 47 rushing yards and 62 passing yards, well off the 255.6 rushing and 207.2 passing yards it averaged through the season. The Shamrocks yield only 189.9 yards per game, including just 51.3 yards on the ground.
“We already made history. Why not make some more?”
Jedrick Wills, Lafayette offensive tackle
Walker Wood, Lafayette’s UK-bound quarterback who has rushed for 30 TDs and thrown 29 TD passes, said Trinity is going to do what they do “and do it really fast.” Matching its intensity and football IQ will be pivotal for the Generals to have a shot Saturday.
“If you do that, you can make plays as long as you’ve got the athletes that they do,” Wood said, “and I think we’ve got all the tools to do it. We’ve just gotta play fast and hard and it’ll be a good football game.”
Last year’s run to the finals, where it fell 41-14 to Male, prepared Lafayette not just for the atmosphere in Bowling Green but the grind to get there. Playing 15 games last season was tiring, senior receiver Quinten Brown said, but hasn’t been as much this season “because it wasn’t new to us and wasn’t as brutal.”
That journey put things in perspective for junior receiver Dae Dae Edwards. “Nothing’s given,” Edwards said. “Last year, us making it to state, I think really put a big target on our back coming into the season.”
Aside from its run-in with Trinity, Lafayette deflected the arrows shot in its direction this year. Its offense has produced more total yardage through 14 games this season than last (6,480-6,373) despite playing just one half in its regular-season meeting with Scott County and the graduations of All-America offensive tackle Landon Young and 2015 Lexington Player of the Year Mason Alstatt, both of whom are now at Division I schools.
Lafayette’s defense has allowed about 400 fewer yards through as many games this season, too. Trinity rushed for 132 yards and threw for 163 yards in the first meeting but was able to find the end zone on four of its first five possessions to take control.
If the Generals can get past the name on the front of their opponents’ jerseys and find an offensive rhythm that evaded them in the first meeting, there just might be a path for them to become the first Lexington public school to win a title since Henry Clay in 1985.
“Coach Shaw told us we’re the only Fayette County team to go back-to-back,” said Jedrick Wills, a five-star offensive tackle committed to Alabama. “‘You’ve already made history,’ he said. ‘Finish out and you’ll be talked about forever.’
“We already made history. Why not make some more?”
Class 6A football finals
Who: Lafayette (13-1) vs. Trinity (14-0)
When: 9 p.m. EST Saturday
Where: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green
Advance tickets via KHSAA.org: $18 club level, $13 reserved chairback, $10 general admission
Video webcast (fee required): http://khsaa.tv/
Audio broadcast (free): http://mixlr.com/khsaa/events/