There’s not a lot Lafayette High junior quarterback Grayson Saunier doesn’t do for the Mighty Lions. Take Friday’s 35-28 home win over the Barbe Buccaneers on Friday night for example.
Saunier ran for 155 yards, threw for 140 yards and two scores and also delivered one of the crucial plays of the contest.
Facing a fourth-and-3 from his own 32 late in the third quarter, Saunier appeared to line up to punt but instead ran the fake punt to perfection for an 8-yard gain.
Two plays later, sophomore running back Jakaylib Anderson broke loose on a 57-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to increase his team's lead to 35-21, and the Lions secured the victory.
“We came out with the first down,” Saunier said. “That’s all that matters. We have done quite a few fake punts. That’s something we have here, and you never know when you’re going to need it.”
With Barbe featuring a dynamic playmaker in junior wide receiver Jamaal Levi, Lafayette coach Cedric Figaro thought it might be too dangerous to punt in that situation while clinging to a seven-point lead.
“When you have Grayson back there making plays,” Figaro said, “he’s your punter, he’s your quarterback and he’s your running back. Sometimes they can’t make a mistake. They have their guy and we have Grayson. They made a mistake — went to sleep — and Grayson ran it for us.”
Saunier shouldered 24 carries while lifting the Lions to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in league play. Barbe dropped to 3-4 and 2-2.
“He’s learning,” Figaro said of Saunier. “He hadn’t played much last year. He’s just scratching the surface right now. He still missing a few things here and there, but he’s just an excellent kid. He’s a 4.0 student, great friend, great child, great everything. I have nothing but great things to say about that kid, even though I chew his butt every now and then.
“He’s going to be a special one. He is special.”
The Lions still couldn't celebrate until the final 50 seconds of the game. Barbe drove 64 yards on nine plays to reach the Lafayette 7 in the final minute of the game. But intense pressure by the Lions’ defensive front forced three straight incomplete passes as the Bucs turned over the ball on downs.
“That pressure was huge,” Figaro said. “Tim Wilson, Braylon Celestine, Al Richmond and Simeon Richmond — and we even put Alex Palumbo in there — and they got pressure on that quarterback.”
The Lions benefited from time-consuming drives. Lafayette’s scoring drives included 70 yards on seven plays; 73 yards on eight plays; 73 yards on 12 plays; 89 yards on eight plays; and 75 yards on six plays.
“We really felt comfortable passing the ball and really felt comfortable running the ball,” Saunier said. “We kind of mixed it in and had a couple heavy packages and spread them out and then did what we did — just played Lafayette High football.”
That included a 30-yard touchdown pass to Emery Taylor for a 28-14 lead before halftime.
“From the beginning, everybody’s always asked me, ‘Are you a pocket passer or are you a rushing passer?’” Saunier said. “I like to think of myself, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do.
“That’s what I tell coach every week. I’m ready for whatever he needs me to do.”
When the Bucs began to answer Saunier’s running, the Lions went to Anderson with great success. He finished with 143 yards and two scores on 14 carries.
“Last week, he played well and this week he played well, so I think he’s coming into his own right now,” Figaro said of Anderson. “He’s starting to understand what he has to do. He played a lot for us last year, but this year, he’s starting to pick it up right now.”
Taylor also was used on defense, with an emphasis to slow down Levi as much as he could. Levi was limited to five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown — his 18th on the season — and he also threw an 83-yard touchdown pass.
“The guys came and told me he was one of the best in the nation, and we put one of our guys on him that hadn’t really played DB,” Figaro said. “I thought we had a good game plan set up for him, but the kid is special, man. He’s special. When you have a special kid like that, he’s going to make his plays. You just have to stop everybody else.”