More insight ahead of the Lafayette-Male game from Lafayette Coach Eric Shaw, who played with the Cincinnati Bengals prior to being a longtime assistant at Lafayette. He assumed the head coaching job in 2013.
On No. 1 Male being the heavy favorite: “Nobody’s picked us to be here now. So what’s new? The kids understand that. They’re just playing football and having fun. We’re gonna prepare to go win a game regardless of who it is that we’re playing. A lot of what happens has to do with us. Male is a great team. We played them four years ago here in the first round of the playoffs and they beat us. This is the same group that we’re playing again on Saturday. Our kids are excited. They know what this is all about.”
On losing to Male 17-3 in 2012: “That Lafayette team compared to this team is night and day. Male was young, physical, fast and understood what to do. Both offenses kind of struggled but they ended up coming out on top. We had some turnovers in that game that we couldn’t recover from but that team is different than the one we’re facing. We’re different than the one they faced when we met for years ago. (Saturday) should be a fun game, I think.”
On preparing for Male’s top-ranked defense: “They’re real fundamentally sound. They’ve been doing the same thing for four years. When you do the same thing for four years you kind of master that. Those players understand what their role is in that defense and because of that they’ve been very, very successful defensively.”
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On Lexington city schools getting behind them: “Being able to come together as one and going after a common goal, that’s what you coach high school football for. That’s the purpose of you playing, is to be able to have this opportunity to play in the final game. And I know that here in Lexington it’s been a long time coming. Why it’s been a long time coming, I can’t answer that. But it’s about time. And everybody’s excited about that piece. Preferably, this can change the mentality here about Central Kentucky football being a doormat to Louisville and Northern Kentucky. I’m excited about leading that charge. I’ve talked about that since I took over the program. When you’re talking about Kentucky high school football, Lexington should be talked about. And it hadn’t been for a long time. There’s a lot of athletes here and a lot of great coaches. We’re accepting that challenge and we’ve been picked to lead that charge. We’re gonna do everything we possibly can in our power to give a good showing.”
On Lafayette’s maturation over the season: “No matter what the score says, what I care about is you work your butt off this week and have fun doing it. Saturday you go out and play with everything you got and have fun doing it. The score dictates what happens after that. You go and do those couple of things, I’m happy whether we win or lose. … To see these young men grow and mature, and learn how to deal with adversity and deal with it the right way, I’m excited about that. Cause I know when they graduate, they have a great opportunity to deal with the world the right way.
“The world is rough and it’s tough and it’s cold and it’s hard. A lot of things aren’t going to go your way. By them learning through sports, especially football, being able to master some of those skills so when they leave here they can be better leaders in the community and better men, they can be better husbands and brothers. They can be so many things that will lead to them reaching their full potential as a human being.
“I tell my coaches all the time ‘This is bigger than us. This is bigger than winning a game. It’s bigger than a state finals.’ This is an opportunity for a young man, no matter what side of the track they come from, to go play against a high-quality team on the biggest stage you can play in high school football. And being able to have that experience is priceless.”
On his team seeing the light: “These last five or six weeks have been rough on me. No sleep. Not so much concern or nervous; it’s not that. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m in a hurry to get there I think my sons in the locker room see that same light. My coaches see the same light. And we’re just anxious to get there and see it. We can see it, but to be able to enjoy it is what we’re anxious about here. Win, lose or draw Saturday, that doesn’t change it.”
On ‘the process’: “This thing ain’t been easy. There’s been a lot of things that could’ve turned this thing the wrong way very, very early. 70 to 14 and 65 to 46. Those turnouts could have really turned this thing into something else. But it didn’t. I didn’t see any lack of confidence. … In the summer we started talking about the process. We talked about ‘12-5’. So us being here, we’re not surprised to be here, but the journey along the way and the process along the way has been very, very humbling to me and my coaches and my sons in that locker room.
“They’re really just enjoying it and they have embraced it in a manner that I wouldn’t trade them for anyone whether we get beat 50 to nothing. That don’t even matter. What matters is what we have overcome to be in this position to have a chance to do something bigger than us. That’s the state championship to me. It’s been wild to be able to watch it and experience it. … Everyone plans to play in the final game of whatever class they’re in. You’re playing for those things but you really can’t plan for the process and what happens along the way. You just enjoy it.
“Our plan every week is to max out. Max out every snap, every play, every game. That doesn’t mean that everything is gonna be perfect. That doesn’t mean that we’re just gonna blow out folks. It doesn’t mean that they’re not gonna make plays and bad things won’t happen for us. What that means is that you just max out every play. No matter what happens, just play the next one. You give maximum effort every snap. And that’s just been the attitude.”