Sophomores Jeff Foster and Malik Newton played like seasoned veterans for Lake Taylor in their first regional championship game.
Foster threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while Newton had two touchdown receptions, a touchdown run and a key fumble recovery as the No. 2-seeded Titans beat No. 1 Lafayette 35-14 for the Class 4 Region A championship Friday at Wanner Stadium.
The victory moves the Titans (12-1) into the state semifinals next weekend for the first time in three seasons. They’ll host Eastern View (13-0), which beat Dinwiddie 45-35 Friday for the Region B crown.
Titans quarterback Foster, a 6-foot-1, 165-pounder, ran for 113 yards on seven carries and completed 6 of 13 passes for 149 yards, the biggest being for touchdowns of 61 and 40 yards to Newton. Newton, a 6-2, 215-pounder, had 15 carries for 83 yards, two tackles for loss and the fumble recovery.
The contest was tied at 14 before Newton took a screen pass from Foster 40 yards down the left sideline for the go-ahead touchdown with 2 minutes, 54 seconds to play in the third quarter. Moments later, he recovered a Lafayette fumble and would capitalize on it with a touchdown run that gave the Titans control of the game early in the fourth quarter.
Foster proved difficult for Lafayette to stop on the veer option from the first series, but penalties kept the Titans from scoring early. Foster tucked the ball in on the option on the fourth play of the game and ran 82 yards to the end zone, but the score was nullified by a holding call.
The drive ended with Foster being called for intentional grounding, giving the Rams the ball in good field position at the Titans’ 47. Lafayette took advantage of that real estate by driving 47 yards in 12 plays, a drive capped by Trey Canady’s 1-yard run that gave the Rams a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Foster and the Titans responded quickly. Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Foster kept the ball on the option and ran 49 yards for a score to tie the game at 7.
The Titans’ defense followed by forcing a three-and-out, and three plays after the punt, Foster struck again. He connected on a screen pass to Newton, who ran 61 yards to give the Titans a 14-7 lead with 10:18 to play in the first half.
Lake Taylor could’ve stretched that margin after being gifted more good field position on Lafayette punts of 7 and 2 yards. But the Titans went nowhere after taking possession at the Rams’ 36 and 26 and needed a clutch defensive play to maintain their lead at halftime.
Linebacker Keonte Welch made it, sacking Lafayette quarterback Zach New for a 12-yard loss on the final play of the half after the previously unbeaten Rams (11-1) had driven to the Titans’ 5. Defensive end Corey Holloway also had a big first half for the Titans, with six tackles, including four solos and his 18th sack of the season.
Mike Rodgers made a statement play for the Rams to start the second half, dragging seemingly half the Late Taylor defense an extra six yards on a 14-yard rushing gain. Rodgers ran for 35 yards on the 10-play, 74-yard drive, including the final 10 yards to the end zone as Lafayette tied the game at 14 with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter.
But Lake Taylor took control from there. The Titans drove 86 yards on their next possession, with another Foster-to-Newton screen — this one for 40 yards — giving them a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter.
Newton’s recovery of a Lafayette fumble at the Rams’ 40 four plays later proved to the be the game-changer. Foster followed with a 25-yard completion to Javon Harvey along the left sideline, setting up Newton’s 4-yard touchdown run that increased the Titans’ lead to 28-14 with 10:56 remaining in the game.
Runs of 14 yards by Newton and 38 yards by Foster were the big gainers for Lake Taylor on a game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Dominique McNair (13 carries, 69 yards) scored on a 2-yard run to give the Titans a three-touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Minus 1,100-yard rusher Dea’Mario Tyler, who was out with an ankle injury, Lafayette saw its two-year reign as regional champion come to an end.
LAKE TAYLOR 35, LAFAYETTE 14
Lake Taylor: 7, 7, 7, 14 – 35
Lafayette: 7, 0, 7, 0 – 14
Laf: Trey Canady 1 run (Trevor Kellejian kick), 2:42
LT: Jeff Foster 49 run (Janfer Tapia kick), 1:40
LT: Malik Newton 61 pass from Foster (Tapia kick), 10:18
Laf: Mike Rodgers 10 run (Kellejian kick), 6;27
LT: Newton 40 pass from Foster (Tapia kick), 2:54
LT: Newton 4 run (Tapia kick), 10:56
LT: Dominique McNair 2 run (Tapia kick), 6:10
TEAM STATS: LT; Laf
First downs: 12; 18
Rushes-yards: 35-270; 36-106
Passing yards: 149; 31
Comp-att-int: 6-13-0; 4-14-1
Penalties-yards: 12-134; 5-33
Punts-avg: 1-19; 4-18
Fumbles-lost: 1-0; 1-1
Marty O’Brien, 757-247-4963, email@example.com