The Lafayette Christian School football program is flying high.
A year ago, the Cougars set a school record for wins with eight, and they captured their first ever playoff win and came within a few points of playing for a state championship.
Today, the Cougars will kick off a new season filled with high expectations as they host Shiloh Hills.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Whitesville Road stadium.
“I’m glad to see the program reach this point,” said Nick Nehring, the only head coach the team has ever had. “There were years where we were struggling for wins. And it’s nice to kind of see us turn the corner. I’m very thankful for that.”
The Cougars went 7-3 in the regular season a year ago, and they won the first playoff game in the history of program before falling in the semifinals of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama playoffs.
Now, the Cougars will be aiming higher as they embark on a new season.
Many of the players responsible for last year’s success are back, including senior quarterback Matt Brown, who is heading into his fourth year as a starter.
“I feel like it’s the most experienced team we’ve ever had,” Nehring said. “We’ve got a bunch of seasoned football players.”
In addition to Brown, some other veterans are Levi McCurry, Eli Sheppard and Sam Marshall.
“It’s good group of seniors and juniors,” Nehring said. “It’s six (juniors) and six (seniors), so that’s 12 guys. That’s 12 out of 20.”
The most experienced player on the team is Brown, who became the starting quarterback when he was a freshman, and he has been in that role ever since.
Brown is also a gifted defensive player, and Nehring said his role on that side of the ball will increase this season.
“In the past we’ve been trying to hold him out, but it’s his senior year,” Nehring said. “We need to get as much out of him as we can. He’s a threat on both sides of the ball. You put your best guys on the field and go.”
And while Brown will take most of the snaps at quarterback, Nehring said some other players will play the position as well.
“We’ve got a couple of other guys coming on that are probably going to play quarterback too,” Nehring said. “Aaron Dixon, we’ll put him in some special sets. And then Joseph Pope. He is just a good athlete. He plays basketball and soccer, and he decided he wanted to come out for his senior year. He’s really taken to it. He’s learning the game.”
Nehring said the depth of this year’s team means that when a starter comes out, there shouldn’t be that significant a drop-off.
“I feel like if I have to move a guy in or out, we’re not falling off that much,” Nehring said. “We’ve got some good guys backing up the starters.”
This will be the second straight season Lafayette Christian has opened against Shiloh Hills.
It didn’t go well for the Cougars last year.
Shiloh Hills took advantage of some Lafayette Christian mistakes and rolled to the blowout win at home.
“We turned the ball over. We were moving the ball, and then we’d fumble,” Nehring said. “It was our worst game of the year, by far.”
Nehring expects another tough game this season.
“They’ve got a lot of tradition,” he said. “They’ve got their quarterback, who is a very good athlete, and a leader. We’ll have to deal with him. And they’re well-coached. They’ve got a good staff. We’ll have to go play ball. We’re expecting a four-quarter game.”