By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
MACON – Noxubee County’s public address announcer wasn’t sure how many yards Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Liggins rushed for on an option keeper early in fourth quarter.
“Liggins got a lot of yards on that run,” he told the crowd.
The Commodores’ junior actually picked up 19 yards on the wet, frosty field, setting of his team’s clinching touchdown in Friday’s 20-0 victory against Noxubee County in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Lafayette (15-0) advances to the state championship game for the second straight season. The Commodores’ will play North Pike (14-1) at 3 p.m. Friday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
“Last year, we were just happy to be there,” Lafayette coach Anthony Hart said. “It’s not like that this year. We’re going down there to win a state championship.”
Lafayette lost 35-16 to St. Stanislaus in the 2009 title game.
In Friday’s win, Liggins completed 5 of 9 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against the stingy defense of Noxubee County (13-2). He also suffered two interceptions.
On the ground, Liggins rushed for a team-high 75 yards on 19 carries. Running back Demarkus Dennis added 60 yards on 16 carries.
Liggins’ 19-yard run on a second-and-6 from the Noxubee County 22, set up a 3-yard touchdown run by fullback Jamel Dennis to clinch the Commodores’ return to Jackson.
Liggins fired a 57-yard scoring strike to Ontario Phillips with 6 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give his team a 13-0 lead.
Phillips made the catch between two Noxubee defenders, then raced to the end zone.
“Great throw, great catch … great, great play by Ontario,” Hart said. “That put us up 13-0. That still didn’t feel good, but it was better than 6-0.”
Lafayette took a 6-0 lead in the first half on the strength of two Tyler Jackson field goals of 32 and 27 yards in the second quarter. The successful kicks were the sixth and seventh of the season for Jackson.
The Commodores survived two first-half turnovers, including a pass interception by Noxubee County’s Brandon Sanders at midfield on their first offensive play.
Lafayette’s other miscue was a fumble by Demarkus Dennis at the Noxubee County 10-yard line, just two plays after the Commodores had recovered a Noxubee County bobble.
The Commodores’ defense held Noxubee County to under 100 yards total offense. Defensive end Demetri McIntosh says the unit’s motivation was to return to the championship game.
“Losing in Jackson last year made me sick,” he said. “We’re getting a second chance. We are looking to go down there and finished what we started.”