WILLIAMSBURG — “Friday Night Lights” is a series looking in on area high school football programs ahead of the 2023 season.
The Lafayette High School Rams are hopeful to bring another championship back to Williamsburg.
Rams head coach Andrew Linn is back for his 13th season at the helm of Lafayette football. In those years, he has led the Rams to a Bay Rivers district championship 11 times.
During the 2022 football season, the Rams went 10-2, posting their only losses to King George and Lake Taylor high schools. The Lake Taylor loss came during the team’s playoff run. The Rams also repeated as Bay Rivers district champions.
The Rams return eight starters on defense and seven starters on offense.
Returning players include quarterback Hayden Oleksy, linebacker Naz Wolmart, linebacker Jaiden Brown, linebacker James Spencer, center Gunnar Zurek, offensive lineman Mason Mills, wide receiver Natron Hudson, wide receiver Elijah Matthews, and tight end Daniel Jackson.
The program lost 12 seniors to graduation.
As the 2023 season kicks off, Coach Linn is adjusting to a young team.
“We’re going to be a very young team. We will have to weather the storm early on with some young kids. If they start taking to it fairly early, we’re going to be fairly good by the end of the season,” Linn said.
Linn is also hopeful to bring another state title back to Williamsburg.
“We have the same goal every year, which is to win a state championship. We’ve been there five times and won twice, but it doesn’t always happen. If that’s not the goal, you shouldn’t be doing this,” Linn said.
Approaching each game individually, Linn knows that some matchups will present challenges.
“I always look at our schedule as one game at a time. In our district, some of the larger games will be against Poquoson, Warhill, and Grafton,” Linn said.
As Linn has been at the helm for more than a decade, he’s seen many kids come through the program. Equally so, many of the kids who come to the program have also heard a lot about Coach Linn.
“I used to be a hard-nosed, old school, run-of-the-mill football coach, but you’ve got to bend with the times and be a little bit more conducive to tough love with the kids. My philosophy is that we’re going to win and lose football games at Lafayette, that’s always going to happen but my main goal is to get these kids through a successful experience for four years and because of football they come out a more productive citizen than they were when they started,” Linn said.
As Lafayette enters the 2023 season, the team has embraced each other as brothers who are in this together.
“I’ve never been a motto guy, but our team really focuses on family. They play for each other, there is a true love in this team and they really embrace playing for each other. If you can get 80 kids to play for each other, you are going to be pretty good,” Linn said.
Since he has been at the helm for years, Linn is starting to coach kids of former players.
“I’ve coached long enough now where I have coached players kids. The real inspiring thing is when you have kids who come back with their families and you see the impact that you’ve made on their life as a coach, it’s special,” Linn said.
Lafayette’s away opponents this season include New Kent, Smithfield, Warhill, Jamestown, and Poquoson high schools. Lafayette’s home opponents include Spotsylvania, St. Christopher’s, Grafton, Tabb, and York high schools.
Lafayette High School kicked off its season at home against Spotsylvania on Aug. 24.