The Lafayette Lancers needed a big win on Friday night to clinch a berth in the MSHSAA Class 6 state football playoffs, and they got it, with a 41-7 win over the Marquette Mustangs at Marquette Stadium.
The victory gave Lafayette its first Suburban West Conference championship since 2008, with an 8-0 record in league games this season.
The Lancers jumped on Marquette quickly, scoring three touchdowns in the first 12 minutes to leave little doubt about what Friday’s outcome would be.
Marquette finished the year with a 3-7 record.
Unfortunately for Marquette, its offense was going south on Thursday, and couldn’t seem to put together enough good plays to sustain any of its early drives.
In fact, Marquette quarterback Daniel Slattery, who did rush for a game-high 108 yards, threw three interceptions on the night, which Lafayette kept converting into points.
“You just can’t have turnovers like that against a really good team like Lafayette,” Marquette head coach Ryan Thornhill said. “We’re still a young group, still a work in progress, so you expect mistakes. But we can't have that many turnovers and still expect to win.”
Slattery did produce Marquette's lone score of the night, when he hit senior Daniel Powers for a 14-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, to prevent the Mustangs from suffering their fifth shutout of the season.
The Lancers came into the 2011 regular season finale needing a win, and preferably one by a wide margin, to claim an undefeated Suburban West Conference championship and earn themselves a spot in the state playoffs which begin next week.
Lafayette did what it needed to do, thanks to a convincing 41-7 win over league rival Marquette. And despite a World Series baseball Game 6 in St. Louis going on at the same time.
“This was a good team win,” Lafayette head coach Boyd Manne said. “Our defense has been playing really well, and our offensive line did a nice job of opening up holes and giving our quarterback time to throw.”
Marquette held its Senior Night celebration honoring all its senior football players, cheerleaders, dance team, band members, and their parents on Thursday. finished the season with a 3-7 record.
“I wish we could’ve sent those guys out on a higher note,” Thornhill said. “We’ve got such wonderful kids here, such great young people, it really is an honor to be able to work with them and see them grow from young kids when they get here to young adults when they graduate.”
The Lancers, who came into Thursday’s action, with a 1-1 district record and needing a win by at least a touchdown to clinch a spot in the state playoffs, gained that edge quickly and just extended it throughout the night.
Quarterback Matthew Goro was a key figure in Lafayette’s tremendous offensive output, completing 13-of-18 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
In fact, Goro made the play of the night for the Lancers, when he drilled a 52-yard scoring strike to teammate William DuPont, early in the first quarter to get Lafayette on the board.
From that point on, the Lancers seemed confident and relaxed in everything they did on offense and defense.
“I just try to make (big) plays when I have the chance,” Goro said. “Our offensive line did a great job all night. All I had to really, was find the open man.”
Lafayette converted that first turnover into points, when junior Deonte Robinson, who had two touchdowns on the night, scored his first on a short burst up the middle, after teammate Devin Hampton picked off a Slattery pass deep in Marquette territory.
The Lancers went up 21-0 just before halftime, when Goro found Kevin Hampton for a 15-yard score, then added two more scores, on runs by Robinson and Hampton, that made the game a laugher at 34-0.
“I’m just proud of our ballclub,” Manne said. “We cleared our bench in the fourth quarter, and lots of kids got a chance to play and contribute tonight.”
Lafayette will have to wait for the outcome of Friday’s games to find out exactly where they stand in the playoff race.
The Lancers have assured themselves a spot in the tournament no matter what, but if Parkway South could somehow defeat No. 1-ranked CBC, Lafayette would be declared district champion and would have a home game next Friday night in the first-round of the playoffs.
If CBC defeats Parkway South though, the Cadets would be declared district champions and they would have a home game next week, while Lafayette would go on the road and take on the Class 6 District 4 winner, which could be either Hazelwood Central, McCluer North, or Ritenour.
Score by Quarters
Lafa: William DuPont 52 yd pass from Matthew Goro (Daniel Menees kick), 8:59
Lafa: Deonte Robinson 2 yd run (Daniel Menees kick), 8:28
Lafa: Kevin Hampton 15 yd pass from Matthew Goro (Daniel Menees kick), 5:43
Lafa: Deonte Robinson 14 yd run (kick failed), 8:51
Lafa: Kevin Hampton 1 yd run (Daniel Menees kick), 4:13
Lafa: Kirk Bradley 35 yd run (Daniel Menees kick), 4:42
Marq: Daniel Powers 14 yd pass from Daniel Slattery (T.J. Kroll kick), :54.4