“These guys have worked hard this offseason. It's been amazing seeing these guys work on their own. They've got something to prove, and they want to be the first team to bring a state championship here to LaFayette.”
- James Lucas, LaFayette head coach
LaFayette head coach James Lucas said the Bulldogs’ motto this year is to be “nation great.” If the Bulldogs want to make that happen, they’ll have to see unproven players stand up on offense.
The Bulldogs lost five starters from last year’s offense, including starting quarterback Jae’lin McCurdy. In McCurdy’s place comes senior Jordan Walker, who’s better known for picking off passes rather than throwing them.
Walker, a 6-foot-1 athlete who was a All-State first team defensive back, adds quarterback duties to go with safety. Walker joins a line of recent game changers behind center, following McCurdy and current Auburn University running back JaTarvious Whitlow.
Lucas has been pleased with Walker’s progress in his newest role.
“Jordan has really stepped up,” Lucas said. “The work ethic has been tremendous. That's what I've really seen in him: the dedication of being in the film room and the weight room, conditioning on his own, coming out, working routes and throwing routes.”
Walker will be able to lean on running back Keandrae Peterson to keep the offense going. Lucas said Peterson and V.J. Tolbert will also be used in the Wild Dog formation and are both capable of throwing as well as running to keep defenses guessing.
Lucas has seen the LaFayette defense go from surrendering 36 points per game in 2014 down to just under 15 last season. Given the experience returning to the 2019 defense, the Bulldogs could take another step forward.
“We're looking to increase off of that and get even better,” Lucas said. “In order to be a state championship-caliber team, you've got to be in those single-digit numbers (in points allowed). From the defensive side, they understand that. They see that as a motivation for them in 2019.”
Walker is one of eight returning starters from last season and arguably the most important. In addition to his natural ball-hawking ability, he also consistently keeps his other defenders on the same page and in the right position to make plays.
Although he now has quarterbacking duties on his plate, Walker plans to be the same old ballhawk that gave offenses fits in the past three years.
“It means everything coming out here and being able to lead the defense,” Walker said. “I know I've got to hold everybody accountable, make sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing, being in the right spots. I can say it's very fun doing that.”
Walker is by no means the only playmaker on the Bulldogs defense. Lucas said he has high expectations for linebackers Dai Dai Giddens as well as Zachaeus Turner. The same goes for Julius Bullard as well as Tav Woody, two big men who return to LaFayette’s defensive line.
Lucas expects his team to not fade down the stretch. Given their experience, the defense will be key in avoiding such a turn of events.
“I just want to see them finish. That's my main thing,” Lucas said. “Don't start out strong and then weaken out as the season goes on. I want to see them start out strong and finish strong.
“(Our summer workouts are) trying to get these guys to understand that it's a long season. You need to take it one day at a time.”