CAMERON, Mo. — Despite an inspired first-half performance by Cameron, Lafayette spoiled the Dragons’ shot at their first home win of the season as the Fighting Irish prevailed 35-21 on Friday at Cameron High School.
It’s been a season of flux for Lafayette (4-3), as communicated by coach Eric McDowell.
“We’ve changed our approach to things this season, getting back to the basics and simplifying things. We know that we can do really well if we keep it simple by being fundamentally sound and letting our athletes make plays in space,” McDowell said. “We kept it simple tonight and we wanted to work on things and get better and them, and we did. It’s going to pay off in the future.”
At the game’s start, everything came up Cameron (2-5). Even with a punt return touchdown by sophomore Ty Speer getting called back, the Dragons marched down the field to set up an 8-yard run by quarterback Tyler Campbell to give them a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
Lafayette quarterback Daeton McGaughy pounded in two touchdowns on the ground in the second quarter and delivered a screen pass to Derrick May for another, but the Dragons refused to be deterred by mistakes. Trailing late in the first half, Dragons junior Ian Riley snagged an interception that gave them the ball on the goalline and resulted in the go-ahead pass to Speer with moments left in the second quarter.
The second half proved to be a different story. Leading 21-19 at halftime, the Dragons were unable to muster any sort of offense and were largely stymied by Irish defense even as their own defensive unit kept them in the game.
“They’re a good football team, they have some size on us up inside and they made some adjustments to shut some of those things off,” Cameron coach Jeff Wallace said. “There wasn’t a lot that we were able to do to get yardage in the second half, and I give credit to them. They coach them up well, those guys are good, solid, strong football players.”
McDowell attributed the team’s improved performance more to chemistry across the lineup than to any one adjustment.
“There’s some gelling and meshing and bumps in the road that we had to learn from, and that’s what we saw tonight,” McDowell said. “(We) had to learn a couple of lessons defensively and they did like we saw in the second half, so that’s pretty good stuff.”
By the game’s end, Cameron’s defense finally gave way. The Irish scored twice in the second half, more than enough to bury the Dragons’ stagnant offense under a deficit they were unable to crawl out from under.
Wallace came away from the game encouraged despite the eventual loss.
“We talk about fighting, being a fighter, and they fought tonight. What they did was truly inspiring for a guy like me who has been doing this a long time,” Wallace said. “To watch what I watched, what these young kids do, it’s pretty darn awesome.”
Irish senior McGaughy thinks his team is starting to come together as the end of the regular season rears its head.
“We’re gelling as brothers and as a family,“ McGaughy said. “We still got some steps to take as a team, but we’re getting better every week and we’re just worried about getting better.”