The South Forsyth football team had one of the best defensives in the state this year, and the War Eagles did it without a major star. None of the War Eagles’ numerous seniors in the unit have an FBS offer, and for much of the year, the players took pride in their status as underdogs.
But when one player did stand out, when the coaches needed to dial up a drive-changing play, it was often Ryan LaFlamme.
The senior defensive end – the second of his family to be named a county Player of the Year, after his brother Tyler won it as running back in 2014 – had 55 tackles for the War Eagles, with 26 for a loss and 12.5 sacks.
LaFlamme seemed to have a knack for the consequential and dramatic this season from the first game on. In the War Eagles’ upset win over Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic to open the season, he had five tackles for loss and four sacks, and LaFlamme’s last tackle in that game might have been the biggest. He sacked Hornets quarterback Cordel Littlejohn for a 10-yard loss, setting up a fourth-and-long that Roswell failed to convert, ending the game.
In the 10 games that LaFlamme played this year, there was only one in which he didn’t have a tackle for loss: The War Eagles’ 38-0 win over rival Lambert, in which the margin of victory allowed South to rest its starters for much of the game.
LaFlamme had one of his best games of the season in South’s first-round playoff matchup against Mountain View, notching four tackles for loss and three-and-a-half sacks. The War Eagles lost that game to end their season, much to LaFlamme and the rest of the team’s disappointment, but he still sees the season as a memorable one.
“It was just an amazing year,” LaFlamme said. “Because we’ve done so many things that no team at South has ever done before.”
LaFlamme will leave South as part of the senior class with the most wins in the history of the football program, and 2017 included the team’s first Corky Kell win, its first undefeated regular season and was the first time that the War Eagles beat Lambert and West Forsyth in the same year.
LaFlamme is still unsure of his college plans: He has offers from programs like West Georgia, in Division II, and Jacksonville, in the FCS, and would consider walking on at an FBS program, like Tyler LaFlamme did at Auburn.
Wherever he ends up, he’ll keep aiming for the big plays, but not without the team-focused mentality that served LaFlamme and the rest of the War Eagles so well.
“Some plays just work out, where everyone does their job and I get freed up sometimes, one on one and unblocked,” LaFlamme said. “(That) allows me to make those kinds of plays, because the whole defense is just doing their job.”