LaFayette struggles against Horseshoe Bend

Published 11:58 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

By Lizi Arbogast Gwin

It may have been the opening kickoff Braxton Wilson ran 70-plus yards for a touchdown, or it might have been two fourth-and-goal stops on LaFayette’s first two possessions.

Whichever it was, the Horseshoe Bend Generals took that incredibly strong start and turned it into an even better victory in a 42-14 rout of the Bulldogs on Friday night.

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“I told them before the game we needed to get off to a good start, and right off the get, Braxton takes it to the house,” HBS coach Jeremy Phillips said. “That just instantly gets momentum on our side and it bled throughout the whole game, so I was really pleased with that.”

After zigging and zagging his way across Generals Stadium to begin the game, the Generals defense immediately went to work in the Class 2A Region 3 tilt.

One big passing play from Tazarius Towles to Julian Robinson got LaFayette (1-5, 1-3) into the red zone. But just a few plays later, the Generals (2-4, 2-3) forced three straight incompletion and a turnover on downs. 

Horseshoe Bend nearly scored on the ensuing drive, but a touchdown was called back due to a holding call. It was the first of three times that happened to the Generals on Friday. On the Bulldogs’ next drive, they once again found themselves within striking distance after Cameron Thomas snagged a quick toss and ended up with a 77-yard reception. But on the LaFayette fourth-down attempt, Horseshoe Bend’s Calvin Mangram pancaked Robinson for a 1-yard loss.

“That’s a huge point in the game because it was still tight,” Phillips said. “They hit a couple of pass plays to get down in there, and our defense bowed up right there and really just kind of hunkered down right there. That’s what good balls teams do in those types of situations and I thought our defense did well tonight.”

The offense matched that effort the rest of the way.

Kori Woods, Jackson Goodwin and Josh Hunt scored one offensive touchdown apiece, and Wilson added one of his own. The biggest thing that helped the Generals breakthrough was their ability to break tackles.

“We practice tackling every day, but we didn’t do a great job and that’s on me,” LaFayette coach Juan Williams said. “Our guys, when the lights turn on, we have to play like we practice. We can’t just be practice players and when the game comes, we forget everything. That starts with me; I gotta find a way to transport it to the field.” 

For Phillips’ part, he attributed the Generals’ strong rushing attack to the backs’ physicality.

“Finishing runs is something we talk about a lot with our running backs and tonight they finished runs,” Phillips said. “They really put their heads down and hit the yards they could get. They’re doing everything we’re asking them to do, so I couldn’t be more proud of them.” 

Horseshoe Bend also used its physicality to overcome a serious size disadvantage, especially on the offensive side.

“I thought that our offensive line did an excellent job tonight,” Phillips said. “LaFayette has a couple of big guys, and we really emphasized all week getting off the ball and staying low and driving our feet. It showed tonight. There were some holes that opened up, and they were really keying on Braxton, which I don’t blame them, so that opened up some stuff for Kori. He had some good runs.”

The Bulldogs did start to make some noise in the fourth quarter when Towles found Ajavien Patrick for a 60-yard touchdown pass. They even recovered the ensuing onside kick.

But the Generals, namely Woods, quickly took the wind out of those sails with a 50-plus yard pick-six. 

LaFayette scored once more in the final minute as Towles tossed a 20-yard score to Thomas.