By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Anthony Hart admits that being the top-ranked team in MHSAA’s Class 4A by two different preseason publications is a bit of a distraction for his Lafayette High team.
But what was evidenced by its last two games – a 31-6 thrashing of North Pike in December’s 4A state championship game and a 40-11 beatdown of Tupelo, at the Daily Journal’s second-ranked large school, on Friday night – Hart and Co. will have to get used to the top billing and all the hype that comes with it.
In other words, the hype is real for the Journal’s No. 1 large school, which last year became the first MHSAA team to finish a high school season at 16-0.
“Rankings don’t mean anything to me,” Hart said after his team’s season-opening win over Tupelo on Friday night. “We want to be in Jackson (for the state championship game). That’s our goal.
“Coming out with this high ranking, that’s really kind of a distraction more than anything. And coming here and playing a 6A playoff team, that’s a very uneasy feeling.”
The Commodores travel to Greenwood for another non-division tilt on Friday.
“I tell them all the time that the first time we go out on the field asleep we’ll get beat,” Hart said. “We got four or five … golly … tough games right in front of us that we gotta play, and the first time that we go out on a field and don’t play football we’ll get beat.”
And the scary thing about this Lafayette team, which built a 34-3 halftime lead against Tupelo, was that it was far from perfect in Week 1, says Hart.
“Our athletes made plays,” added the Lafayette coach.
Maybe the film – and the MHSAA – can provide a clearer picture of exactly what transpired at the end of Friday’s Oxford-Grenada game.
Grenada was trying to run out the clock, as it nursed a 16-15 lead, when its quarterback was hit by an Oxford linebacker while rolling out after a handoff.
The QB viewed it as a cheap shot and shoved the Oxford backer, earning an ejection. One of Grenada’s running backs became involved and he was also tossed.
Meanwhile, the Oxford player – nor anyone else, for that matter – was not ejected.
“He had quarterback responsibility on the option and thought he had the ball,” Oxford head coach Johnny Hill said on the phone Sunday about his player’s hit on the opposing team’s quarterback.
Grenada head coach Ashley Kuhn said he plans to send tape of the incident to the MHSAA in hopes that his two players won’t be suspended for any of its upcoming games.
“No one threw a punch,” Kuhn said after watching the film on Sunday.
Also, there were issues with the game clock, as the scoreboard wasn’t working, prompting both teams to have to get the official time from the officials. Hill and his staff contested – to no avail – that too much time was inadvertently shaved off by the officials during the final minutes.