WEDOWEE – LaFayette went into their game Friday night against Randolph County hoping to finally establish their identity and show that they will be a serious threat in Region 5. For the first 12 minutes the Bulldogs did that, pushing the Tigers around and moving the ball efficiently. But a series of plays swung the momentum in the favor of Randolph Co. and the Bulldogs were never able to recover in a 49-28 defeat.
After forcing a three-and-out by the Tigers on the opening series of the game, LaFayette took the ball down the field on a time-consuming drive. On the verge of the endzone, the Dogs almost stalled, but facing a fourth-and-two, quarterback Qua Boyd found Joe Vines for the duo’s sixth touchdown connection of the year. The Dogs missed the PAT but had a 6-0 lead, with just 5:00 left to play in the first.
LaFayette forced a punt on the Tigers’ next possession, but couldn’t capitalize kicked it right back a few plays later.
Moments later, the potent Tigers finally struck as quarterback Ty Sparks hit a receiver on a 40 yard touchdown strike. It was the first breakdown of the night by LaFayette’s defense.
LaFayette’s ensuing drive ended with a turnover-on-downs, but not before a controversial call that took away a first down. It was the first of a series of calls that would change the complexion of the game.
Randolph County was again forced to punt on their ensuing possession but a roughing the kicker call gave them a new set of downs. One play later Sparks tossed another TD pass, this time from 24 yards out. The Randolph County lead was now 14-6 with 6:27 left to play in the half.
LaFayette answered with another sustained drive, but again they almost stalled in the red zone. Facing a fourth-and-eight from the RCHS 18 yard line, Quentavious Whitlow caught a tipped pass in the back of the endzone for an apparent touchdown. But as the Bulldogs celebrated, the officials pointed to a flag that was thrown for illegal procedure, negating the touchdown and backing the Dogs up. Coaches argued the mysterious call but to no avail. The ensuing fourth down play ended with an interception that the Tigers returned to midfield with just under two minutes to play in the half. Then for the first time all night, the Tigers began driving the ball with ease on the Bulldogs. They found the endzone from three yards out with just under a minute to play for a 21-6 lead.
The two score swing stunned the Dogs and they never recovered. They did put one last scare in the home team to start the second half. LaFayette took the kick to start the half, and on just the second play, Boyd scrambled around right end, ran over two Tiger defenders and raced 61-yards for a touchdown. He connected with Vines on the 2-point conversion to close the gap to 21-14. The Dogs were back in the game, but Randolph County answered with authority.
The Tigers pounded the Bulldogs down the field in a drive that consumed four minutes off the clock and ended with a six-yard touchdown run. RCHS had a 28-14 lead with 8:39 to play in the third. On the Bulldogs next offensive play, Randolph County intercepted another Boyd pass and returned it to the LaFayette 29 yard line. Moments later they upped their lead to 35-14 on a six-yard touchdown pass.
Boyd responded by leading LaFayette down the field on their next possession, and finished the drive with his second touchdown run of the night, from eight yards out. The two-point conversion was good cutting the deficit to 35-22 with 3:58 to play in the third.
But the Tiger offense could not be stopped, they scored again just before the quarter ended then once more in the closing minutes of the game.
Boyd and Vines connected for a touchdown with :02 seconds to play but it mattered little.
Boyd accounted for all of LaFayette’s touchdowns, he ran for two and threw for two, giving him eight passing TD’s on the year. He completed 14-of-27 passes for 194 yards, but threw four interceptions. The Bulldog rushed for 161 yards, with Boyd accounting for 111 of them on nine carries. Quan Whitlow rushed five times for 27 yards and Vines had four carries for 25 yards.
Vines also caught six passes for 65 yards and two scored, while Quan Whitlow led the Dogs with 73 yards on four catches. Quentavious Whitlow caught three passes for 54 yards.
Defensively, Kwon Ross had another standout performance, collecting a team-high 14 tackles and a sack. DJ Barnes had eight tackles and both Kwavian Terry and Joe Vines had seven tackles. Vines also had three pass breakups and Quan Whitlow finished with six tackles.
LaFayette Coach Steve Coker said that the Bulldogs knew they were heading into a tough environment in Wedowee, and at first they responded. “As the game progressed we went back to some of our bad habits on defense,” Coker said. “We weren’t being aggressive, we were guessing and not reacting.”
Once the momentum changed, it seemed like the Bulldogs couldn’t stop the Tigers offense. They focused on the left side of the LHS defense with great success starting in the second quarter and never let up. “Somehow, we’ve got to find a way to fight mentally through these tough situations,” Coker said. “We’ve got to finish these games, put people away.
LaFayette (1-2; 0-2) comes back home this week to face a team they have never seen before in Prattville Christian (1-2; 0-2). They are new to Region 5 and new to the AHSAA, having just made the switch form the AISA this season. They are a solid team, according to Coker. In their three games this year, which have included a win over 1A Billingsley and losses to region opponents Isabella and Montgomery Academy, Prattville has shown fairly simple defensive and offensive schemes, but effective.
The Bulldogs hope to have a few injured players back in the lineup this week. Kelsey Finley is expected to return, and Torres Vines, who injured his knee on Friday, is expected to play. Tequarri Whitlow (ankle) and Mitchell Ross (hand) both played on Friday and should play this week. Coker said many other Bulldogs are nursing minor bumps and bruises.
Kickoff is set for 7 pm Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.