What’s it going to take for Lafayette to go to Simon Kenton and come away with its first berth in the state championship game since 1985?
“We have to match their intensity and go play football,” Generals Coach Eric Shaw said.
Lafayette has been playing plenty of football lately — it played in the region finals for the first time in four years last week and is in the state semis for the first time since 1985.
The Generals at some point have trailed in each of their last four games — their regular-season finale at Tates Creek and all three playoff games — but remain unblemished since a 65-46 loss at the hands of Scott County in September. Should they defeat Simon Kenton, they’ll become the first big school from Lexington to reach the finals since Bryan Station in 1999.
1 Lexington has sent two teams to the football state championship just once in a single season — 2007, when Lexington Catholic and Lexington Christian each reached the finals.
Lafayette got the revenge it sought against the Cardinals last week. It’ll take that same hunger in Independence on Friday as it tries to unseat the team that ended its 2014 season.
“They’ve talked about this for two or three weeks,” Shaw said. “They wanted this opportunity. They were upset about Male beating Trinity. They want that opportunity to fix things. They fixed one against Scott County. I think they’re hungry enough to prepare to get it done.”
Mason Alstatt, whose 25 touchdowns are most on the team and who leads Lafayette with 1,428 rushing yards, said the Generals have built better connections with one another since bowing out to Simon Kenton last November. A year of maturity has gone a long way to improving their play, he said.
The Wofford commitment relishes the chance to play in the Pioneers’ stadium.
“Every time I go into a playoff game I love going into their place,” Alstatt said. “ ... I can’t wait to get back at Simon Kenton. They’re a great team and are gonna come at it on Friday like any team would.”
Shaw said Friday’s atmosphere will be “crazy” and that film doesn’t do the Pioneers justice.
“Northern Kentucky is a hard-nosed fight,” said Shaw, who lived in the area when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the early ’90s. “It’s a fight when you play those teams and they play you very, very physical ’til the end.”
Fundamentals, an area in which Simon Kenton excelled, were the Generals’ undoing last year according to Shaw. Playing teams like Trinity in the regular season, regardless of the outcome (a 70-14 thrashing), helped his players start understanding “what this was really all about.”
“(The Trinity game) built a character within this group that you can’t take things lightly and you can’t take them for granted,” Shaw said.
The Generals showed their resolve last Friday as they fell behind 9-0 and 16-6 at Scott County, Alstatt said.
“The team as a whole didn’t hang their heads,” he said. “No matter if it was a long first down or a big play or a touchdown. If you looked around on the sidelines no one held their head. Everyone knew that they were still in the game.”
Alstatt went as far to say that without big losses to Trinity and Scott County, the Generals wouldn’t have had the fire to get as far as they are now. Shaw called that “a pretty bold statement” but said players in general have a better sense of the team’s temperament than do coaches.
Stressed Shaw: “I think those tests that we had earlier have really prepared us for this opportunity and kept it moving. We’ve had some things throughout the playoffs that, looking at, we shouldn’t be here. But here we are.”
Lafayette at Simon Kenton
What: Class 6A semifinal
When: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Simon Kenton 13-0, Lafayette 11-2