The Louisa Lions have their golden ticket to the Virginia High School League Class 4 State Championship game on Dec. 9.
The ticket was presented to them following their 20-13 victory over the Lafayette High School Rams on Dec. 2 in The Jungle.
“It’s nice,” Lions’ head coach Mark Fischer said. “I’m really excited for the kids. A lot of people play their whole careers and never get to this level. I hope they enjoy it.”
The Lions have earned a perfect season record of 14-0 this year, and only one team stands between them and the state title: The Spartans of Salem High School.
Salem is no stranger to this level of competition. This year will mark their fourth consecutive trip to the state championship game, a title they’ve won the last two years.
“They [Salem] are kind of like the University of Alabama of this level,” Fischer said. “They’re consistantly there, year in and year out and they live up to the hype.”
The Lions, on the other hand, haven’t made it to the state championship since 2006, and they lost that title game to Amherst, 34-27.
Fischer isn’t going to let that be a factor.
“You kind of have to put that aside and focus on the team you’re playing now,” he said.
Salem has a 12-2 record and won their golden ticket in a decisive 49-14 game over Sherando High School last week.
“Any time that you have success in the playoffs it’s a special season,” Salem’s head coach Stephen Magenbauer said. “It really kind of sneaks up on you as you’re preparing from week to week.”
Two of their biggest threats on offense are running back De’Angelo Ramsey and quarterback Jack Gladden.
“[Ramsey] is as good a running back as I’ve ever seen,” Fischer said. “He’s got moves and speed and he doesn’t go down easy. Their quarterback [Gladden] really knows how to throw huge balls.”
Magebauer has also noticed the strong offense that Louisa brings to the table. For his money, though, the Lions’ true strength is in their defense.
“We’re much more impressed with their defense,” he said. “When you have a defense that can do what they do, that’s what wins football games. This is going to be a battle.”
For his part, Fischer is doing the same thing he always does to get the team ready: work on mistakes from the week before.
“We’re going to stay on task and try to be prepared as best we can,” he said.
As for the Spartans, Magenbauer is taking a similar approach to preparing for the title.
“We’re going to do what we’ve always done and go out there and lay it all on the line and hopefully make Salem proud,” he said.
For the Lions, it’s not just about a trophy. Win or lose, the championship will be Fischer’s last game as the Lions’ head coach. And his team is more than happy to give him one more chance to coach.
“It’s the greatest feeling to be able to take him to the big show in our last season,” Louisa’s senior quarterback Malik Bell said. “It means a lot.”
The state championship game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. at the College of William and Mary on Dec. 9. Admission to the game is $10.
The Central Virginian will broadcast play-by-play commentary from Dicky Purcell, Tim Coleman and Ronnie Fisher beginning at 5:20 p.m. on Facebook Live.