Penalties and turnovers contribute to tough opener for LaFayette

Published 11:52 pm Saturday, August 26, 2023

For the second straight season, LaFayette started the year off with a loss to Loachapoka in The Classic. The Indians beat LaFayette 32-12 on Saturday night. 

It was a tale of two halves for LaFayette as the Bulldogs were outscored 26-6 to end the game. The Indians scored 26 unanswered points before LaFayette could find the end zone again late in the game. Head Coach Juan Williams was disappointed in the team’s overall discipline. 

“Started out great, didn’t finish,” Williams said. “Kids gotta get out of being selfish. You’ve got to play for each other. Just got to get better from that.” 

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The Bulldogs started off the game hot as Zae Towles connected with Julian Robinson for a 67-yard touchdown pass. The Bulldogs missed the extra point, but they had a 6-0 lead with 11:35 left in the first quarter. 

On defense, LaFayette was stout early on. Loachapoka was forced to punt on each of their first two drives. The Bulldogs defense handicapped themselves on the Indians’ third drive with a flurry of penalties. 

On Loachapoka’s third drive, LaFayette was called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and four offsides penalties. Those penalties set up Loachapoka inside LaFayette’s 10. 

As a result of the two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, Malik Burton was ejected for the remainder of the game. Burton is one of LaFayette’s most important players on the field, and his loss was felt for the rest of the game. Burton is considered the anchor on both sides of the line. 

“It killed us,” Williams said. “Our kids wore their emotions on their sleeves instead of playing the game.” 

The Indians got in the end zone for the first time on a six-yard rushing touchdown. The Indians’ failed to convert the 2-point conversion, and the game was all tied up at six with 10:36 left in the second quarter. 

After the first play, LaFayette was unable to find any momentum on offense. The Bulldogs were forced to punt four times after the first drive, and LaFayette also turned the ball over on downs to end the first half. 

Loachapoka’s defensive line consistently put pressure on Towles when he dropped back to pass in the first half, and that continued for the remainder of the game. 

“We’ve got to block,” Williams said. “I felt we could throw the ball all night, we’ve just got to block. We can’t have our quarterback on the run every play.” 

In the second half, the Indians were able to run the ball straight at LaFayette. Loachapoka used nearly nine minutes and scored on a nine-yard rushing touchdown to take the 12-6 lead. 

LaFayette’s offense experienced more of the same in the second half. On their first drive, a botched snap gave Loachapoka the ball at LaFayette’s 33. 

Williams credits the lack of ability to defend the run in the second half to the amount of injuries the Bulldogs suffered. 

“We were depleted,” Williams said. “Had a lot of injuries, and it really hurt us.” 

Loachapoka capitalized on the turnover and capped off the drive with a 17-yard rushing touchdown to push their lead to 12. 

Disaster struck once more on LaFayette’s next drive. On the first play, Towles’ pass was intercepted by Jamari Payne, and Payne returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to push the Indians’ lead to 18. At that point, the game was all but sealed. 

The Indians would add insult to injury late in the fourth quarter. Towles’ pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown for the second time in the fourth quarter. Loachapoka would convert on the 2-point conversion to take a 26 point lead. 

In total, the Bulldogs had four turnovers, all in the second half. 

The Bulldogs finally found the end zone again with 3:45 left in the game. Towles connected with Robinson for a 40-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 20. 

LaFayette will stay at home again next week as they take on Bullock County.