40 in 30: Lamar Raiders

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The Lamar Raiders football team has their sights set on another MAIS AAAA DII State Championship – which would be three consecutive titles for the program. The high level of success in recent years have set high expectations this incoming season among players.

“It’s just like, the last few years we’ve been so good and it’s just like kind of an expectation for us to fulfill,” said senior safety, William Lamar. “And the last few squads, we just got to keep it going.”

Quarterback Joseph Hutchinson is one of around 15 seniors that want to continue history at Lamar.

“Last year we had Simpson coming after us pretty hard and, of course, a two-peat has never been done before and we want to keep that going and make it a three-peat so we could look back at our seniors and tell them that we did it,” Hutchinson said.

Assistant coach Charles Shaffer says the team lost some talented seniors from last year’s championship-winning squad but returns 12 starters this season.

“I mean, obviously, every team that starts wants to play until late November,” Shaffer said.” We think that having kids that have been in state championship games, been in playoff games is very important.

And so we’re bringing a lot of those back this year. So we think we have a lot of experience and a lot of very good positions.”

Hutchinson agrees the team lost important pieces from last year’s roster but notes that this year’s senior class has been fulfilling a larger leadership role.

“Last year’s team I think the seniors did a really good job being leaders and that’s something that I, myself, and a couple of other seniors had to step up on,” he said. “Last year’s seniors did a really good job with knowing what to do and we have a very young group coming up, but they’re going to step up and make plays.”

A season ago the Raiders finished the year undefeated in district play and have not lost since an early season game – September 1st – against Newton. Yet, according to Shaffer, the team’s success has not diminished his players’ motivation to win.

“Our kids – once you experience winning, it’s something that you just want to continue doing and I think each class wants to continue pushing the class below them to keep achieving and we know this is going to be a very tough year,” he said.

The Raiders’ quest for a third consecutive state title begins August 10th against Laurence Manning Academy in Montgomery, Alabama.