By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Despite becoming the first MHSAA football team to finish a season 16-0, Lafayette High head coach Anthony Hart still doesn’t believe that that same undefeated mark is a realistic goal for his 2011 squad.
Last December, the Commodores wrapped up their pristine season in a 31-6 dismantling of North Pike in the Class 4A state championship game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. That was their first state title in football.
When the ’Dores hold their first official practice of the 2011 season this afternoon, they will be welcoming back a stellar backfield and, altogether, nine returning offensive starters.
Standout quarterback Jeremy Liggins will be in his third season as a starter, and 2,000-yard rusher Demarkus Dennis will once again lead the ’Dores’ potent rushing attack. Liggins, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 265 pounds, says Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are his top four choices right now in terms of his recruitment.
According to Hart, Memphis and Southern Miss are the two schools showing the most interest right now in Dennis, who tallied 2,249 yards and 26 touchdowns on just 299 carries in 2010.
On the opposite side of the ball, the ’Dores return seven veterans. Not to mention, kicker/punter Tyler Jackson – who led Mississippi in scoring for kickers in 2010 with 104 points – is back for his senior campaign.
“That’s going to be tough to do,” Hart said last week when asked about the chances of pulling off another 16-0 season. “We start off with Tupelo, Greenwood, Oxford, Evangel Christian (La.), Shannon and Pontotoc – that’s going to be tough.
“Going 16-0 is a kind of unrealistic goal, I think.”
The Sept. 10 contest at Louisiana power Evangel Christian – a Saturday morning affair at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., that may be televised – will certainly present the Commodores a different challenge.
Although, the Commodores have had success playing out of state in recent years. They won at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in 2009.
While the Commodores are out to defend their state title – and do so in a new look Division 2-4A, as New Albany and North Pontotoc join the division and Byhalia, Center Hill and North Panola leave it – they will be playing in memory of two former players who passed away this spring.
“Chris Gipson graduated three years ago, a 2008 graduate, and we lost Demetrius Owens, a spring 2011 graduate,” said Hart. “Ironically, they both played the same position and wore the same number. Both were nose guards and wore No. 70 for us.”
The Commodores plan to honor their two former players by wearing black, No. 70 decals on their helmets this season.