FULTON – Being overlooked all year by outsiders worked well for the Lafayette County football team on Friday night.
“Nobody gave us much of a chance tonight coming in,” said Commodores head coach Anthony Hart. “We used that to our advantage.”
And that they did as the Commodores shocked Itawamba AHS, the Daily Journal’s top-ranked large school, 31-6 at Indian Stadium in a MHSAA Class 4A state semifinal game.
But even Hart himself probably didn’t have the foresight to see his team derailing Division 1-4A powers Shannon and Itawamba AHS en route to a state championship game appearance.
“Coming into the season with nine new starters on offense and seven on defense – who would have thought it?” said a jubilant and proud Hart, who beat Shannon in the quarterfinals and now IAHS in the semifinals.
But what may also worked to the Commodores’ advantage on Friday night, is the fact that the Lafayette players work hard and have fun playing the game, even if they have to face an undefeated Itawamba team on the road in cold conditions.
“These kids work hard and they love football,” said Hart, whose team improved to 14-1. “When you work hard and you love football, good things can happen.”
Friday’s win avenged a September regular-season loss to Itawamba and earned the third-ranked Commodores a spot in next Saturday’s 3 p.m. Class 4A state championship game in Jackson against South champion St. Stanislaus, which beat Greene County 35-16 in the other semifinal.
“We just go out and play,” said Hart, whose team lost 25-19 at IAHS on Sept. 11. “That’s what I appreciate about these guys so much,” Hart said. “When Friday night comes they play – they play and they play hard.
“They are a team. This isn’t the best individual team we’ve probably had, but this a great team. They are together on everything that we do.”
Stepping up for the Commodores on Friday night were a pair of sophomores. Running back Demarkus Dennis had touchdown runs of 79 and 27 yards on his way to a 153-yard rushing performance on 15 carries.
His buddy, quarterback Jeremy Liggins, had an 80-yard TD run in the first quarter and tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Dukes in the second.
In fact, it was pretty much all Commodores in the first half as they went into halftime with a 24-6 advantage thanks to a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Jackson with 49 seconds left before intermission.
The Indians’ lone score came in the second quarter when quarterback Maikhail Miller found Austin Shumpert in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown reception less than a minute into the second quarter.
Lafayette defensive back Ontario Phillips picked off Miller twice in the second half and linebacker Markie Dukes had the Commodores’ other pick in the second quarter.
“They were just better than we were,” said Itawamba AHS head coach Jamie Mitchell,whose team ended its season at 13-1. “From the open to the finish, they were just a little better than we were on both sides of the ball.”
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal