Lafayette is aware of the mixed expectations placed upon them ahead of last season.
On one hand, they graduated the best senior class to ever play for the football program, led by Diego Bernard. On the other, they were fresh off a run to the district championship game and came up just short of an MEC title.
“We’ve just kinda been trying to build off last year and, you know, how people doubted us last year,” senior Taylor Bledsoe said. “We’re just trying to build off that and not only go to the top, but stay at the top and prove ourselves.”
The Fighting Irish finished the regular season 7-2, losing to Excelsior Springs 46-37 in their district quarterfinal on the road. The lone regular season losses came to Class 3 semifinalist Maryville and MEC surprise Savannah.
But the season ending the way it did only served as motivation dating back to October.
“Looking back on it, it’s about what I could have done more,” senior Brian Estes said. “This year I’m pushing myself to do more this year, not give, go harder on plays, not take any breaks.”
Senior Daeton McGuaghy, a quarterback and safety committed to South Dakota State, added, “If we didn’t have a chip on our shoulder, we do now. That’s all I’ve gotta say.”
The 2018 News-Press NOW City Football Player of the Year was an All-MEC quarterback a season ago. He was responsible for 3,276 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns, also serving as a captain.
With McGaughy on the field, the Irish are confident they can rely on his abilities at any time. He has just as much confidence in his supporting cast.
“(They) are the best football players in Missouri, and I believe that. They should believe that, too,” McGaughy said. “(Senior) Jerico (Weston) hasn’t taken a varsity snap yet and I believe he’s one of the best running backs in Missouri.”
Alongside Weston, the Irish return lethal playmakers in Derrick May and Miles Henderson that head coach Eric McDowell knows will make the offense tough to stop.
“He’s gonna be one of the toughest players in the area to defend,” McDowell said of McGaughy. “At the same time, he has enough weapons and what we hope is a good enough O-line to do the things we want to do.”
Add in Carlos Cortez, following the line paved by his brothers at Lafayette in a stellar freshman season last year, the Irish see a roster as deep as any that have ever walked the halls of Lafayette.
The sights for the reason reflect the sentiment.
“Our goal is pretty high, I’ll just say that,” Bledsoe said. “Our goal’s really high and we’ve been working for it, I promise.”
Lafayette will compete in the City Jamboree on Friday before hosting Clinton in the season opener Aug. 30 at Alumni Stadium.