The Lafayette High football team’s defense knows when it has taken the fight out of its opponent.
“We call it the rollover point, when they completely just give up on the game,” senior defensive lineman Gavin Byron said. “We just demoralize them by consistently coming off the ball and knocking their teeth.”
Lafayette watched King’s Fork reach the point of no return last week during the Region 4A final, which the Rams won 17-7 in Suffolk.
Lafayette junior running back Dea-Mario Tyler scored his second touchdown of the game early in the third quarter to put his team up 14-0. On the next King’s Fork drive, the Lafayette defenders could see their foes deflating.
The signs may be subtle, but the Rams know how to spot the signature slump of defeat.
“The other team starts complaining a lot,” Byron said. “They start moseying around. That’s when you’ve hit the rollover point.”
With last week’s victory, Lafayette (12-1) clinched a spot in the Class 4 state semifinals for the second straight season. The Rams will face the host Louisa County Lions (13-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Mineral.
Lafayette lost to Dinwiddie 28-14 in a 2016 state semifinal. The Generals fell one game short of a rematch with a 38-27 loss to the Lions last Friday.
The Rams will be seeking their first state championship appearance since 2014, when they lost 25-19 to Magna Vista in the 3A title game.
The Lafayette defense has held opponents to 6.9 points per game this season. The Rams have recorded four shutouts and have allowed more than 14 points just twice.
“Early in the season, we really needed them to carry us because we were so young offensively, especially in the backfield,” Lafayette coach Andy Linn said. “Those guys kept the score down for the other team so we didn’t have to score too many points.”
The offense got up to speed after a few weeks, but the defense never slowed down.
Louisa County will challenge Lafayette with a run-heavy offense, but the Rams plan to bring their signature relentlessness at the line of scrimmage, Linn said.
That energy keeps the Rams from hitting their own rollover point, senior linebacker Armonii Burden said.
“You can hear the pads rattle, and you can see a lot of excitement and emotion,” Burden said. “All 11 of us are loud and enthusiastic about what we’re doing and what we’re here to accomplish.”
Even if the other team starts slowing down, Lafayette defenders feed off each other.
“We don’t let anything get in our heads,” Burden said. “Whether we see our opponent shutting down or fighting hard, it won’t change our play at all. We just play hard.”
Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176. Follow her on Twitter @KYanchulis.