Don't ask Bruton coach Tracy Harrod or Lafayette coach Andy Linn about playoff implications in September, even if their teams are good bets to make the Region I Division 3 field. You're likely to get a response similar to the high-pitched "Playoffs? Are you kidding me?" rant made famous by former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora.
And Linn isn't biting on the question of whether his Rams are out for revenge after losing a physical, well-played 43-36 double-overtime thriller at Bruton a year ago. He doesn't need to.
"It's not very difficult getting the kids focused," Harrod said. "We're having a harder time making sure they don't burn themselves out too much (in preparation) before the day of the game.
"Most of these kids played rec ball with each other. This game is like a family feud."
Linn said, "This (Lafayette) team does a real good job of wiping out the stuff from last year and focusing on what they're doing now. Talking about playoffs or last season would be a distraction.
"A lot of these kids have known each other since they've started playing football, so they'll be ready to play their butts off."
The most obvious story line is that the game will be a matchup of Lafayette's prolific offense, which is averaging 57.5 points, versus a Bruton defense that has posted shutouts in its first two games. And certainly a Bruton defense that seeks to unnerve the opposition by blitzing multiple players most downs is a good place to start.
In outside linebacker De'Arius Olvis, the Panthers have an all-state candidate who's played like it the first two games with six sacks. Outside linebacker Kajoun Johnson has taken advantage of opponents attempts to avoid Olvis with three sacks of his own. Scott Frazier has been a rock at middle linebacker, while Donovon Wade has starred in the secondary with three interceptions.
Lafayette counters with a rugged offensive line that returns all of its starters from a unit that averaged better than 35 points a year ago. The two players who've benefited most for the Rams are also all-state candidates: receiver Thomas Smith, who has scored five offensive touchdowns, and fullback Will Capers, who's rushed for 221 yards and a two touchdowns.
"Their offensive line is always very impressive," Harrod said. "We're going to have to play assignment football and fight to the end."
Hype aside, Linn won't leave his defense, which has allowed only 14 points and 222 yards in two games, out of the discussion as a key factor in Friday's game. Nor will he underestimate a Bruton offense averaging 174 yards (and 21 points) as it gets its footing under sophomore quarterback Bilal Wallace and four new linemen.
"Bruton has five or six athletes who can score at any time," Linn said. "But we're better defensively this year and the kids are taking a lot more pride in playing defense.
"Peter Hurst (a linebacker) and (safety) Trey Hulbert have helped us with their football intelligence, and (linebacker) Rodney Taylor has been a play-maker."
That talent on both sides of the ball has the opposing coaches worrying more about X's and O's than inspiring their Jimmys and Joes. They don't need to.
"These are the kinds of games we want to play," Harrod said.
Linn said, "There's not a lot I need to say to motivate them. I know they'll all be psyched up."
Extra motivation unnecessary when rivals Bruton and Lafayette meet
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