By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Lafayette is more than just a 270-pound quarterback.
The Commodores, defending Class 4A state champions and the No. 1 team in the Daily Journal’s preseason rankings, proved that Friday night with an impressive 40-11 season-opening victory against Tupelo.
Lafayette’s stout signal-caller Jeremy Liggins draws the attention, but his supporting cast proved their worth against the Golden Wave, ranked No. 2 by the Journal in the preseason.
“It’s not just me winning by myself,” Liggins said. “We’ve got some weapons all over the field on offense and defense.”
Liggins connected on 6 of 9 passes for 84 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Mack in the third quarter that gave the Commodores a 40-3 lead.
Lafayette tailback Demarkus Dennis, who rushed for 2,249 yards last year, rushed for 132 yards on 17 carries and scored one TD while slot receiver D.K. Buford rushed for 73 yards on two carries and scored twice.
“We played like we were in awe of them for whatever reason,” Tupelo coach David Bradberry said.
Drew White’s 24-yard field goal gave Tupelo an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
Lafayette answered on its ensuing possession, scoring on slot receiver Buford’s 57-yard scamper with a pitchout. Tyler Jackson’s extra point gave the Commodores a 7-3 lead with 3 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
On the play prior to the touchdown, Lafayette drew Tupelo offsides with a hard count on a third-and-3 from its own 38.
Golden Wave running back Ashton Shumpert fumbled on the Golden Wave’s second play following the Lafayette TD at the Commodores’ 30-yard line. Tupelo’s 1,000-yard back, who suffered a leg injury in last week’s scrimmage against Pontotoc, managed just 20 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Five plays later, Lafayette went up 14-3 when Jamel Dennis scored on a 2-yard blast with 19 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Demarkus Dennis, who rushed for 101 yards in the first half, made it 21-3 Lafayette with his 36-yard touchdown run at the 9:05 mark of the second quarter.
Less than three minutes later, following a three-and-out by Tupelo, Buford scored his second TD on a 16-yard reverse to push the Commodores’ lead to 27-3.
Tupelo blocked Jackson’s extra point attempt following a low snap.
The Commodores, powered by a pair of 20-yard runs by Liggins and Demarkus Dennis, reached the Tupelo 2, where Jamel Dennis scored on his second short-yardage burst to give Lafayette its 34-3 halftime lead.
“It’s hard to play good defense and offense when you’re not aggressive,” Bradberry said. “We had some guys do some good things, but we’ve got to do more of it.”
The Commodores’ offense rolled for 264 yards total offense in the first half, with 221 of those coming on the ground.
Before quarterback Luke Hobson’s 70-yard touchdown strike to Matt McIntosh with 7:46 remaining, Tupelo had just 64 yards total offense.