Big-time defense lifts Lafayette over Eureka for state semifinal berth
By: Jonathan Duncan
It took everything and then some for the Lafayette Lancers to keep their state title hopes from disappearing on Friday night when Suburban South rival Eureka came calling.
Thanks to the Lancers stout and opportunistic defense, Lafayette escaped a hard-nosed, determined Eureka club with a 13-7 Class 6, District 1 championship victory.
Lafayette (12-0), which last played in the state semifinals in 1987, advances to play a Class 6 semifinal game next Friday at Francis Howell at 7 p.m.. (Howell defeated Hickman 45-0 to advance.) Eureka saw its season end at 9-3.
“We knew they were going to come out and play really hard,” Lafayette running back Deonte Robinson said. “It’s a district final game and a good rivalry game, so we knew they were going to come out with the same passion we had.”
Lafayette’s defense provided the Lancers only touchdown of the night. Lancer senior defensive back Shaquille Holley picked off Eureka quarterback Brett Geisz and after initially stumbling on the return, broke free and raced 82 yards for a touchdown.
“There’s no quit in these kids,” Lafayette coach Boyd Manne said.”They had to play for four quarters tonight and they were tested with some adversity and they hung in there and battled. I’m really proud of them.”
The running game also gave Lafayette a major hammer to use on Eureka as Robinson did yeoman work out of the backfield with 145 yards rushing on 25 carries.
“Execute, we had to execute a lot,” Robinson said. “That was our main goal coming into tonight. Finish our plays.”
In spite of Lafayette running freely between the 20’s, Eureka’s defense became very stiff in the red zone. Lafayette was twice forced to settle for field goals as Dan Menees knocked through field goals of 17 and 21 yards respectively in the third quarter.
Eureka finally caught a little fire in the third quarter as Geiz hooked up with Nate Echard on a 68-yard touchdown toss. Geisz powered the Wildcats offense going 18 of 28 passing for 255 yards with a one touchdown and two interceptions.
Leading 13-7 with just under three minutes left, the Lancers defense stood tall one final time. The Lafayette secondary broke up Geisz fourth down pass through the middle intended for Echard and that allowed the Lancers to effectively salt away the win.
“There could have so many turning points in that game,” Manne said. “I think really it was we asked kids to make plays and it was their will. How much did they really want it.”