By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – When people talk about the defending Class 4A champion Lafayette Commodores, the first things that would come to most peoples’ minds are their main offensive threats Jeremy Liggins and Demarkus Dennis.
However there’s more to the Daily Journal’s top ranked large school than just offense, and the Commodores proved that Friday night in the Crosstown Classic.
Lafayette County forced five turnovers on defense and used their special teams to down archrival Oxford for the sixth straight time 40-12 at Commodore Field.
Oxford’s second turnover paid a price in changing the momentum of the game. On Oxford’s ensuing drive after Mont Dean ran for a 29 yard touchdown in which he ran over safety DeBrico Burgess in the process to cut Lafayette’s lead in half, quarterback Parker Adamson fumbled the ball while trying to gain an extra yard on a carry.
Josh Barry happened to be in the right place, scooping Adamson’s fumble and returning it 26 yards to put the Commodores up 27-10 and at the same time seemingly deflating an Oxford offense that outgained Lafayette 178-136 in the first half.
The Chargers (1-2) turned the ball over three times in the second half. Their last of the game, an interception returned 30 yards by Burgess, resulted in the Lafayette’s final score of the game on an 8-yard run by Jamel Dennis.
“We gotta hang onto the ball, they’re gonna get hit playing this game,” Oxford coach Johnny Hill said. “You can’t afford the mistakes we made tonight.”
Known more for his versatile speed at running back, Demarkus Dennis proved he can also return kicks well as Oxford found out. After Wade Lindley’s 27 yard field goal put the Chargers on the board, Lindley made the mistake of kicking the ball deep into Dennis’s hands.
Dennis returned the ball 95 yards for the Commodores’ (3-0) third touchdown of their 20-point first quarter. It was also the last time Dennis saw the ball on special teams.
“We really didn’t expect them to kick it deep,” Lafayette coach Anthony Hart said. “He just took the ball right up the seam.”
“I just saw the hole and I hit it,” said Dennis, who also added 82 yards rushing and a 46-yard TD run for the Commodores’ first score
Liggins also showed up in his final career game against Oxford, passing for 110 yards with a scoring strike to D.K. Buford of 47 yards in the first and rushing for 58 more and another touchdown (1 yard).
Oxford added a safety for their final points in the fourth quarter.