The pride is obvious, both in Laney coach Lemuel Lackey’s voice and his smile.
In the 11 years prior to this season, the Wildcats posted 10 state playoff appearances in 10 winning seasons, and that was before this year’s 7-3 mark.
But this season now becomes a little different than most of the previous 11. This Friday, for the first time since 2005, Laney is playing host to a playoff game. The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed out of Region 3-AA, will take on Morgan County in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs.
“It’s tremendous for the community, and, more importantly, for the kids,” Lackey said. “It validates what we do in our summer program and what we do in our program in general.”
The recent history and continued success reinforce what Lackey has done. It’s clear the Wildcats have built something that can last.
But Morgan County has done its fair share of winning, as well. The Bulldogs, under coach Bill Malone, are a combined 16-5 the past two seasons. The program has also recorded a winning year in 14 of the past 17 seasons.
Like Region 3-AA champion Dublin, Morgan County runs the Wing-T, though Laney lineman Marquez Eubanks said the Fighting Irish “perfect it.”
Lackey said his team and Morgan County appear to be evenly matched.
Both teams have a solid defense, as the Wildcats have held three teams scoreless and the Bulldogs have blanked four. Morgan County is also giving up only 9.5 points per game.
On offense, Laney’s Leo Myers and George Myers have worked together to pace the rushing attack. The two combined for about 230 yards and five touchdowns in a 34-0 win against Swainsboro last Friday that helped give the Wildcats another home game.
As for Eubanks and fellow senior lineman Fred Nelson, the two think this upcoming game can help their class leave an impression.
Nelson said the team has learned from its previous seasons, including the 5-5 record in 2009 and the tough loss to then-undefeated Cook in the first round in 2010.
This year, as the only Augusta school besides Aquinas to be home in the playoffs this week, Laney has an opportunity to deliver with the focus on them.
“It means the spotlight is on us,” Eubanks said. “It’s our time to perform.”