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Lafayette, Michael Fair, embracing old-school football mentality

There’s nothing an offensive lineman likes better than putting his hand in the dirt and pancaking a guy on the other side of the ball. 

In the age of high flying spread offenses, Lafayette’s game is different. They’re embracing that gritty offensive line mentality. 

“All those offenses that spread it around, it’s so fun to watch in August and September,” head coach Michael Fair said. “But what starts happening is when playoff starts, the weather changes. You’re going to get a rain game and you’re going to get a mud game. And what you do in settings like that is all anyone remembers. So, we’re trying to set up, whether we make it or now, a late playoff run.” 

Lafayette isn’t making any promises, but they’re also not shying away their goal, which is to be playing late in the year when the weather turns bad. 

For this 2019 unity, that starts and ends with their senior leadership. Fair describes this group of seniors as the most blue-collar, hardworking and unselfish group he’s ever had. 

“No one cares who gets the credit,” he said. 

And it’s good that no one cares, because replacing the two running backs they had last year is going to be really tough. The Commodores graduated two 1,000-yard rushers, Lance Stewart and Jamie Shaw Jr., from last year’s team. Replacing 2,000 rushing yards will certainly be a team effort. 

“Replacing them will be tough. We’ve got guys that sat on those sidelines and watched them run for a thousand yards a piece,” Fair said. “We think the guys we have are really athletic and more than capable, they just didn’t have the opportunity yet to show it because they were behind two really good seniors. So, we feel good about the replacements, and the one thing about Lafayette is we always have running backs.” 

Most teams who graduated two 1,000-yard receivers and return an experienced quarterback would simply throw the ball again. Think otherwise. Lafayette is certainly going to put more on senior quarterback Randy Anderson’s hands, but they’re not going to throw the ball all that much more. 

The blue-collar, rush-heavy mentality is something Fair’s always had in his background. It may not be as cool, but he’s old school, and it works. It’s not like the team is shying away from all things modern football has proven works – fans will see a lot of motion and pre-snap shifts to alleviate pressure in the box – but the focus is always going to be pounding the rock. 

Sure, Lafayette has integrated more RPO and play-action into what they do the past few years, but it’s all only when these kinds of plays fit into their run schemes. 

Sure, the game is changing, but the more it changes the more it stays the same,” Fair said. “Everything around us is changing, and even we put window dressing on a lot of things we do, but when it comes down to it, we spend so much time on blocking and tackling.” 

Fair doesn’t like emulating too much from colleges and NFL teams that get their players 40 hours a week and can recruit or draft to fit what they like to do. Sure, he’ll be at coaching clinics “soaking those things up like a sponge,” but where he really gets new ideas from is other high school coaches that deal with the same kinds of things he does. 

In an NFL that’s constantly de-valuing the importance of the running back position, high school football will always be different. Pounding the rock and controlling the game on the ground will always be critical in high school football. In no place this fall will that blue-collar mentality mean more than at Lafayette. 

 


You can reach Nathanael Gabler at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter