ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Lafayette came into the matchup against Maryville with four losses by two points or less this season. The Spoofhounds were looking to keep the Fighting Irish from pulling out a win late in a game.
Lafayette (3-5, 2-3 MEC) couldn’t find the luck of the Irish against Maryville (6-3, 4-1 MEC), as the Spoofhounds pulled out a 26-14 win Oct. 23 at Scott Marriott Field.
“I’m very proud of the win, I thought our kids showed a lot of toughness,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said. “I’m proud of this win, and I’m very proud of our kids. To go 6-3 during the regular season, and finish it off, is very good.”
Both teams battled back-and-forth in the first half, with no team gaining a clear advantage.
Maryville’s first two possessions resulted in a punt and turnover on downs. Lafayette couldn’t find its groove either, punting on its first possession and giving the ball back to the Spoofhounds on a fumble the ensuing drive.
Spoofhound senior running back Connor Weiss struck gold first, breaking off a 25-yard touchdown run to secure a 7-0 lead for Maryville.
Lafayette junior quarterback Jaron Saunders did not want his team to fall behind early, and rallied the troops after the Spoofhound touchdown.
In the nine-play drive, Saunders was responsible for making a play six times. He tallied 77 passing yards, including a 6-yard shovel pass to senior wideout Derrick May, tying the game at 7-7 middle of the first quarter.
Maryville junior quarterback Connor Drake wanted to prove he could score himself, punching in a 1-yard quarterback sneak to put the Spoofhounds back on top.
Saunders wasn’t finished however, and threw another passing touchdown to junior wideout Carlos Cortez, this time from 5-yards out.
Saunders’ luck ran out quickly, as he found himself scoreless the rest of the game. He finished 21/38 for 305 yards passing and two touchdowns.
With both offenses sputtering during the first half, Maryville’s defense stepped up.
“Well, Coach Houchin came into the locker room and gave us this whole little speech that set the fire in us and got us going,” Junior defensive back Kade Wilmes said. “Just working as a team and getting our own guys on blocks and running hard, that just got us through.”
The Spoofhounds’ secondary stepped up to stop the vicious passing game of Lafayette. Senior defensive back Caleb Kreizinger intercepted a Saunders’ pass in the end zone, and senior defensive back Matt Goodridge grabbed himself an interception to seal the win.
“All week, we’ve been preparing for those routes. They run a common where the number one (receiver) runs a deep fade and that two (receiver) runs a deep out,” Goodridge said. “I just read that number two going out and I got lucky with a pick. It felt good.”
Lafayette found itself in familiar territory at the start of the fourth quarter. Down 20-14, after a 20-yard touchdown connected between Drake and Kreizinger, the Fighting Irish were knocking on the door with first-and-goal.
The ’Hounds’ defense stood its ground, forcing a fumble and two incompletions to keep Lafayette from taking the lead.
“Week 9, playing good defense; I thought our kids were able to get some pressure when we needed to and thought we had some things dialed up that would hit, and they did,” Webb said. “We got some tackles for loss there in that series that pushed them back. Yeah absolutely, that was a big stand.”
Still leading 20-14, the Spoofhounds wanted to put the game away with less than four minutes remaining. The Goodridge interception spotted Maryville on the Fighting Irish 20-yard line.
On third-and-goal, Wilmes took the ball off of a reverse, finding the end zone from 6-yards out to put the dagger in the heart of Lafayette fans.
“Coach Houchin came out and said that counter works. I thought, ‘OK, I have to secure this football, I can’t have no more fumbles,’” Wilmes said. “I was running outside and saw the guy, there was no block on him, so I ran right through him and just scored. Everything was great from there on out.”
Webb praised his wideout on the game-sealing touchdown.
“Kade may be the strongest kid on our team pound-for-pound,” Webb said “The kid’s tough. He’s physical, and he’s fast, and explosive and gives great effort. I’m very happy with Kade and his effort, and on that play, he was able to power through and get into the end zone.”
Ending the regular season was a high note for the Spoofhounds, but they’re turning their attention to district play.
“Just going into playoffs, it all depends like Coach Webb said, if we get the No. 1 seed and we play next week, or we play someone next week, it doesn’t matter,” Goodridge said. “We’re going to go the next week focused and prepared. We’re just going to get everything down, watch some film, critique ourselves and get better from now on.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spoofhounds were missing key players in Weeks 1 and 2, and had to find an opponent that wasn’t originally scheduled after Benton canceled Oct. 2. With all this happening, Webb was proud of his team for fighting through adversity.
“We finished our regular season 6-3. We experienced COVID Week 1 of Blair Oaks against a top-five team in Class 3. The goal is to play nine games. We played nine games because our kids were healthy and because our kids listened to what we wanted to do,” Webb said. “Nowhere in the state manual, or the MSHSAA handbook, does it say you have to be undefeated to win a state championship. All you have to do is play the best and beat the team that is in front of you.”