Laid-back Lafayette ready for 4A title tilt

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – If there was one team that was the most anxious to leave Monday’s MHSAA football state championship news conference, it had to be the Lafayette Commodores.
And it’s not that they don’t feel like they belong there. Heck, this is their third straight year to attend the annual news conference at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
Not to mention, they haven’t lost a game since the ’09 Class 4A state championship game against St. Stanislaus.
“I just don’t really like a lot of attention,” said Commodores head coach Anthony Hart. “I want the focus to be on the team and the other guys.
“And I feel like the players may get that (reservedness) from me a little bit because that’s the way I am. I just want them to be willing to play and be good guys, and just to enjoy being there.”
Shortly after that interview, Hart, his coaching staff and three of his players exited the building to make the trek back to Oxford so that they can continue their preparations for Laurel – a 13-1 team looking to spoil the Commodores’ dreams of back-to-back state titles and 16-0 seasons.
The ‘Dores were among the first to leave Monday’s event. And it wasn’t because they are uptight.
“We’re all laid-back,” said senior standout running back Demarkous Dennis. “We don’t talk much. We just let football do the talking.”
Their performance on the field speaks for itself. The ‘Dores (15-0) are riding a 31-game win streak into Saturday afternoon’s state title game. They have outscored their opponents this season 655-140.
Even senior quarterback Jeremy Liggins – who is being recruited by SEC schools Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss – is as laid-back as they come.
“I’m like that all of the time,” he said. “Just laid-back.”
“He sits at his house all the time,” Dennis said of his QB. “We hang out from time to time.”
For a 6-foot-4, 270-pound, big-time athlete, Liggins is approachable and patient when hearing out your questions and answering them.
Following his team’s 28-6 quarterfinals victory over Louisville on Nov. 18, Liggins was being interviewed when a little kid approached him. Without missing a beat, he acknowledged the kid and continued to answer the reporter’s questions.
“I just like to stay calm,” he said. “Even under pressure, I just gotta stay calm and maintain.”
Liggins did admit to being nervous when he was the team’s signal-caller as a sophomore in 2009.
“As the years went on, I just became more relaxed – and figuring out the offense made it a lot easier,” he said.
Said his offensive coordinator, Dennis Robbins, “He’s very laid back, easygoing, takes everything in stride and just a great guy to coach.”
sharing the spotlight
As a whole, Robbins said the team’s even-keel-ness can be a concern at times.
“We’re kind of concerned about them sometimes,” he said, “but I guess we’ve gotten used to it. They just don’t ever get really hyped up; they don’t ever get really down low.
“They’re pretty much even-keeled and play every Friday night at about the same level.”
They also don’t seem to care if they’re in the spotlight or not. Or if they have to share playing time and touches.
“I’m happy because he doesn’t have many touchdowns and he’s been wanting to get a lot of touchdowns,” Dennis said about his brother, Jamel, toting the ball in short-yardage and goal-line situations. “It’s just team-playing.
“It’s all right, though … I got 29 of them (total touchdowns in 2011).”
And Demarkous and Jamel, both seniors, have already equaled their scoring totals on the ground from last year: 26 and 10, respectively.
Often times, it’s Demarkous and Liggins carrying their team into the red zone, where Jamel is then inserted into the backfield in place of Demarkous.
“When we get home (after games), he tells me he’s mad,” joked Jamel, who starts as an inside linebacker for the top-ranked ‘Dores.
john.wilbert@journalinc.com