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Friday’s road game against Courtland in the third round of the Group 4A playoffs featured a series of unfamiliar circumstances for the Lafayette football team.
For just the second time this season, Lafayette’s defense allowed more than 21 points. For the first time this season, the Rams did not score double-digit points. But most importantly, for the first – and last – time this season, the Rams suffered a loss.
Lafayette’s offense struggled to move the ball Friday against a stout Courtland defense, while the Rams’ defense struggled to contain Courtland running back Vic Greene, a Virginia Tech commit, who finished the game with 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
The collective struggles by Lafayette resulted in a commanding 27-6 victory for Courtland, which will travel to play Lake Taylor in the Group 4A semifinal round next week.
“They had a great running back and a very, very good defense,” Lafayette Coach Andy Linn said after the game. “They out-muscled us and their size wore on us by the end of the game.”
Courtland and Lafayette traded three-and-outs to open the first quarter before Courtland running back Jason Hokenson was stripped, and Lafayette recovered the ball.
With the ball on their own 17-yard line, the Rams methodically moved the ball inside Courtland territory with a heavy dose of run plays.
Facing a fourth down from Courtland’s 26-yard line, Lafayette quarterback Cheyton Pine completed a short pass to Hezekiah Grimsley, but wound up short of the first-down marker and turned the ball over to Courtland.
Neither Courtland nor Lafayette were able to muster offense on their next drives, with Courtland punting at the Lafayette 39-yard line and the Rams going three-and-out.
With 9:29 left in the second quarter, Courtland found its groove thanks in part to a costly Lafayette penalty.
On the second play of Courtland’s drive, Greene took a pitch to the left side of the field and sprinted to the boundary. Near the sideline, Greene was met by Pine, who led with the crown of his helmet and drew a 15-yard targeting penalty that gave the Cougars a first down.
Two plays later, Greene broke free for a 26-yard scamper that put the Cougars inside the Lafayette red zone. On third down from the Lafayette 10-yard line, Courtland quarterback Chet Wilborne threw a fade pass to Towson wide receiver commit Jabari Allen in the back-left corner of the end zone for the game’s opening score with 6:05 left in the first half.
Trailing 7-0, the Rams were unable to muster a response on their next drive and were forced to punt after three plays. The Cougars took advantage of the quick turnaround as Greene sprung free and raced down the far sideline 61 yards for a touchdown that put Courtland up 14-0 at the half.
“He’s a legit football player,” Linn said of Greene, who had 164 rushing yards in the first half. “They weren’t doing anything special, he’s just a special football player.”
The Rams dug themselves a deeper hole to start the second half as Pine, a Pittsburgh commit, was intercepted by Hokenson on the third play of the half.
With the ball on the Lafayette 25-yard line, it took the Cougars five plays before Hokenson plunged into the end zone from two yards out to give Courtland a 21-0 lead over the Rams.
As was the case most of the evening, Lafayette’s offense struggled to string together drives and forced their defense back onto the field with limited rest. Of Lafayette’s 11 drives in the game, five resulted in a three-and-out or turnover.
“Their linebackers fly to the ball well,” said Lafayette junior running back Caleb Kraegenbrink of Courtland. “We couldn’t really make any moves because the grass was all wet. We could have done better. I’m not making excuses. They played a heck of a game.”
The Rams appeared poised to get on the board during their first drive of the fourth quarter. A 67-yard pass from Pine to Grimsley set up Lafayette at the Courtland 26-yard line with plenty of time to forge a comeback.
Facing fourth-and-long from the Courtland 18-yard line, Pine dropped back to pass but was flushed out of the pocket and forced to take the ball up the middle on a scramble. Pine’s run came up well short of the line to gain and the Rams handed possession back to the Cougars.
A three-and-out by Courtland on its ensuing drive led to Lafayette’s only points of the contest. Starting on the Courtland 40-yard line, the Rams put together an eight-play drive that ended with a John Douglass 1-yard touchdown run with 5:25 left in the game. The extra point was blocked by Courtland, making the score 21-6.
The Cougars put the game out of reach on their next drive. After working the ball down to the Lafayette 9-yard line, Greene took a handoff up the middle and was spun down by a Lafayette defender. However, the bruising back propped himself up with one hand, kept his knee off the ground and powered his way backward into the end zone for the game’s final score.
With Lafayette’s (12-1) season coming to a disappointing end, emotions were running high for players and coaches. Despite tears streaming down his cheeks, Kraegenbrink was still able to take solace in Lafayette’s success this season despite the loss in the playoffs.
“We had a good season. We learned a lot of things about ourselves and got tighter as a group,” he said. “I just wish it wouldn’t have ended this way. It shouldn’t have ended this way.”
Lafayette: 0 0 0 6 — 6
Courtland: 0 14 7 6 — 27
C: Allen 10 pass from Wilborne (Mutty kick), 7-0
C: Greene 61 run (Mutty kick), 14-0
C: Hokenson 2 run (Mutty kick), 21-0
L: Douglass 1 run (kick blocked), 21-6
C: Greene 9 run (kick missed), 27-6
First Downs: 13; 14
Rushes-yards: 39-149; 40-285
Comp-att-int: 8-21-2; 3-8-0
Passing yards: 99; 48
Fumbles-lost: 0-0; 1-1
Penalties-yards: 10-77; 7-60
Lafayette: Hezekiah Grimsley (2 rec, 74 yards), John Douglass (7 car, 16 yards, TD)
Courtland: Vic Greene (14 car, 212 yards, 2 TDs), Jason Hokenson (5 car, 4 yards, TD, INT), Jabari Allen (2 rec, 44 yards, TD)