WEST LAFAYETTE -- When West Lafayette’s current seniors were in eighth grade, they saw the Red Devils win the state championship. From the outside looking in, they saw success.
“They saw it happen, came to high school and thought they were going to do it every year,” said Shane Fry, West Lafayette’s first-year head coach.
It didn’t happen when West Lafayette’s current core took to the varsity level last season. The Red Devils finished the season 6-4 and were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
This time, the Red Devils have already passed that mark. A 34-7 over Western High School pushed West Lafayette to 9-1 on the season, and one win from the sectional title. Their success stems from those seniors, who learned from their struggles last season.
“They didn’t like that,” Fry said. “They said it’s their turn, they would lead the way. They’ve done a phenomenal job.”
In his first year with West Lafayette, Coach Fry has a team poised for a deep run. He has a great coaching staff, which includes former Purdue lineman and current radio sideline reporter Kelly Kitchel. However, the coaches’ jobs are made easy by a locker room of driven seniors.
“They’re just unbelievable leaders,” Kitchel said. “They take control. It’s nice for us coaches, because we can get on them, but we don’t have to as much.”
The Red Devils embrace the challenge to be champions. The seniors have seen it done before and believe this is their time.
The leader is running back Maurice Woodard, a lightly-recruited, underrated prospect who deserves more attention. Both on and off the field, Woodard paves the way for his team. He was the shining example of summer workouts, his coach said, and is the go-to guy on offense.
After the coaches broke the postgame huddle, the players surrounded Woodard who reminded them of their team motto: Don’t be satisfied. There’s more the Red Devils can accomplish, and more days together as a team.
“Nobody wants their season to end,” said Woodard. “All of us are really close. None of the young guys want to see the seniors go; [the seniors] don’t want our season to be over and stop playing with these guys. There’s a fire that keeps going in everyone to keep working.”
The Red Devils have just one blemish on the campaign, a one-point loss to rival Lafayette Central Catholic. It was a game that just slipped away, and one which could have derailed their season. The seniors wouldn’t let it happen.
“We thought, the only thing that would be worse than losing to Central Catholic is losing to Central Catholic and coming out and losing the next week and ending our season,” Woodard said. “We just kept working to make sure that didn’t happen.”
There’s a chemistry built into this West Lafayette team which creates a lively environment. For Kitchel, now in his 10th year of coaching, it’s a joy to be around the players, coaches, and the game he loves.
“I can’t not be involved with football,” Kitchel said. “It has meant so much to me. I’ve got to give back to it.”
Back in the summer, the Red Devils outlined their goals for the season. They had their sights set on a journey to the state title. The leaders bought in, taking the coaches up on their challenge. A magical season continues on in West Lafayette.
“They know they’re special,” Kitchel said. “We’ve been talking about making a run all year, since June. We know we have a special group here, and they’re playing like it right now.”