INDEPENDENCE — In spite of all the things that went wrong for Lafayette on Friday night, it was determined not to let its season end at Simon Kenton.
The Generals survived over a dozen penalties, a fumble, an interception and a turnover on downs to come away with a 42-28 victory that made them the first Lexington team to go to the big-school championship since Bryan Station did so in 1999. This Lafayette squad, which will meet top-ranked and undefeated Male next Saturday in Bowling Green, is the first to reach the state finals since 1985.
“We just keep fighting and every week we find a way to get it done,” said Lafayette Coach Eric Shaw. “I’m excited for them.”
At some point in each of their playoff games the Generals have trailed. Here, they were down for most of the first half before tying things on a 6-yard run by Walker Wood deep in the third quarter and a two-point pass from Wood to sophomore Matthew Guilfoil.
Following that score, Lafayette forced a three-and-out by Simon Kenton. The Generals got the ball back with about 38 seconds left in the third quarter but needed only 12 to grab their first lead of the night — the amount of time it took for Wood to find Quinten Brown down the sideline and for Brown to reach the end zone on an 83-yard blast. Brown was modest in describing the game-swining score.
“That was just us running the offense,” Brown said. “Walker set up a good play and coach set up a good play and I was just doing my job.”
That Lafayette grabbed the lead in the third was remarkable considering they were penalized seven times in the period. The Generals came away with 14 on the night for a total punishment of 107 yards, more than double that of Simon Kenton (seven flags for 51 yards).
Mason Alstatt added a 4-yard score, his second TD of the game, with 1:24 remaining in the game to all but lock up the championship berth for Lafayette. Simon Kenton got the ball back but failed to turn it into points.
“We’ve got a great line and a great defense,” Alstatt said. “They stepped up today and that’s what got us the ‘W’ and why we’ll be playing at WKU.”
The first half, as has been the case for much of the playoffs, wasn’t too kind to Lafayette.
The Generals forced a three and out then struck on their first possession as Wood found Brown for a 4-yard score early. Lafayette failed on its two-point conversion attempt. Simon Kenton quickly answered with a TD run by Cameron Racke. The PAT gave them a 7-6 lead they wouldn't surrender the rest of the half.
Wood soon got in on the other end for another Generals score but they again failed to convert the two-pointer (on this try, they were pushed back 5 yards because of a false start).
Racke found Logan Scott wide open for a big pass but as he fell to the ground the officials declared the reception not so. Racke was unfazed; he went right back to Scott on the next play on nearly the same route to put the Pioneers ahead 14-12.
Simon Kenton climbed up to a 28-12 advantage after capitalizing on an interception and fumble on successive Lafayette drives. The Generals got to within a one-possession game at the break after Alstatt scored on a short carry and then caught a two-point pass.
Alstatt finished with 136 yards on the ground to lead Lafayette. Wood came up 320 yards through the air and 105 on the ground. He went 18-for-29 with the one interception.
Brown finished with 194 yards receiving.
Racke led the Pioneers with 100 yards on the ground while going 14-for-19 for 119 yards passing.
Shaw said the Generals’ maturity is why they’ve found a way to win so many ball games late as of late.
“And they’re playing their butts off,” Shaw said. “I’m so proud of them. I’m speechless. There’s nothing else I can say.”
Well, there was one more thing: Shaw on Lafayette reaching a game it hasn’t played in for 30 years.
“It’s great. We ain’t been in a long time. That’s what you play high school football for, is to have a chance to play in that state game. And we’ve got that chance.”