Simply put, LaFayette’s Jatarvious Whitlow was unstoppable Friday night. The sophomore athlete racked up 334 all-purpose yards and accounted for three touchdowns as he led the Bulldogs to a blowout 35-0 win over Loachapoka at Bulldog Stadium.
It was a special way to begin the James Lucas era at LaFayette, as the first year Bulldogs coach got his first win right away. The way the win came was especially impressive, because while the offense sputtered, the defense and special teams were dominant.
Along with Whitlow’s two punt returns, the Bulldogs blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown and connected on all five extra points kicks. As for the Bulldog defense that struggled against Beauregard in the jamboree game two weeks ago, they were much improved. They forced eight Indian turnovers, allowed just 142 yards of total offense and recorded their first shutout since August of 2011.
For Lucas, who’s made special teams a focus since his arrival in the spring, the way the Bulldogs won on Friday was satisfying.
“When your offense is sputtering and your defense is doing their job, special teams is what makes the difference in the game,” Lucas said. “We’ve really put a lot of emphasis working on special teams techniques and getting guys to do the right things and they got to see it pay off.”
It took a while for things to get moving, as both teams were plagued by mistakes and missed opportunities in the first half. LaFayette finally got on the board with just over two minutes to play in the opening quarter when quarterback Kentrel Holloway connected with Quentavious Whitlow for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
Jatarvious Whitlow made his first big play with just over a minute to play in the half. He returned a punt 63 yards for a score to give the Dogs a 14-point lead heading into the break. Unfortunately for the Indians, he was just getting started.
Early in the third quarter, Whitlow struck again. This time he returned a punt 68 yards to give LHS a 21-0 lead. And with the Bulldogs dominant defensive performance, the return basically sealed the win.
Early in the fourth quarter, Lucas pulled out a little trickery and lined Whitlow up at quarterback. What started out as a run, turned into a pass as Holloway, who had lined up in the slot position, got wide open in the endzone and Whitlow threw a 27-yard strike to put LaFayette on top 28-0.
Fittingly, special teams provided the final score of the night for the Bulldogs. This time it was senior Charles Ballard who picked up blocked punt and returned it 10 yards for the touchdown.
Whitlow finished the game with 131 punt return yards, 36 kickoff return yards, 27 passing yards with one touchdown, 85 yards on three rushing attempts and a 55-yard interception return.
LaFayette faces one of their most difficult tests of the season this week as they kick off their region schedule on the road against perennial powerhouse Reeltown. The Bulldogs and Rebels will kickoff in Reeltown on Friday night at 7 pm CST.
*For full story see this week’s print edition of The Sun.