Coach: Tab Gable (5-5 here; 133-74-4 career)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 5/6/1
Remember these names: The offense will be more run-oriented this season, and that means returning 1,600-yard rusher Devarus Porter (Sr., 5-8, 160) will be busy. Speedy split end/cornerback Demarcus Simpson (Sr., 5-7, 150) will be a playmaker on both sides of the ball. The defense will be paced defensive back Trey Covington (Sr., 6-2, 185) and linebacker Sheldon Covington (Sr., 6-foot, 220).
Will be a memorable year if: The Ramblers take a renewed emphasis on toughness and improve their defense. LaFayette allowed 25 points per game a year ago and was routinely gashed on the ground, yet was within a win against Cartersville in week 10 of making the playoffs. The offense, built around dynamic senior Porter and an improved line, should put up enough points.
Aug. 26 Chattooga
Sept. 2 at Trion
Sept. 9 Cartersville
Sept. 16 Murray County
Sept. 30 Southeast Whitfield*
Oct. 7 at Ridgeland*
Oct. 14 Heritage*
Oct. 21 at Dalton*
Oct. 28 vs. Ringgold at Finley Stadium*
Nov. 4 Region play-in game
* Region 7A-AAA game
Devarus Porter knows what it's like to be an underdog. When you're 5-foot-7 and a few biscuits shy of 170 pounds, it's hard to be taken seriously on the football field.
Until, that is, you do what the shifty LaFayette senior running back did last year.
"Devarus Porter is some kind of back," Dalton coach Matt Land said of Porter, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards in 2010. "He's so quick and he can break off a big play at any time."
Porter's slight build hides the fact that he can take a hit. He did not miss any time with injury a year ago despite carrying the ball nearly 200 times. His toughness, speed (4.5 in the 40) and balance equated to 8.6 yards per carry and a lot of frustrated defenders.
Still, all that means little for the upcoming season. With three-year starting quarterback Josh Morgan graduated, the Ramblers will lose a good bit of the balance they had a year ago. That means Porter will be a marked man.
"Devarus has worked hard this summer to prepare for carrying even more this year," LaFayette coach Tab Gable said. "Everybody knows he's going to get a lot of carries. I hate to say we're building our offense around him, but it's no secret he's the key."
While Porter may have somewhat shed his underdog status, the same can't be said for the Ramblers, who have not made the playoffs in more than a decade. To break that drought, the elusive tailback knows he will be an integral part.
"We've never been to the playoffs as a group, so we're very hungry," said Porter, who is being recruited the heaviest by Furman University. "We've got to do some work up front, where we lost three starters, but from what I've seen so far, we're going to be fine there."
And what would Porter consider a good season individually?
"It's going to be tough to beat last year, but I'm hoping to get 2,000 yards," he said. "I'm pretty sure I can do it, and I think we can definitely get to the playoffs. Doing both would be the best way to go out."
Mascots are a source of pride at many high schools, but few capture as much attention as the LaFayette Rambler.
The fire-breathing car, built in 1991 by former LaFayette football player Larry Martin and his sons, has a 1929 Ford pickup truck chassis and a propane-fed torch that burns high and bright when good fortune goes the home team's way. The current Rambler is a replacement for a Model A Ford that was, some say, based on the Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck Model A.
That car fell into disrepair sometime in the late 1960s until Martin decided to help bring the Rambler back to the sideline. It since has played a part in weddings, homecomings and various parades and has been modified in recent years with a second propane tank to keep up with the upturn in the program's success.