Lafayette's journey ends

Published: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 12:19 a.m.

MAYO — The streets of Mayo were all but empty Friday when most of the town came out to cheer Lafayette in its Class 1A state semifinal game against Tallahassee North Florida Christian.

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Lafayette quarterback Chad Hempstead completes a pass during Friday's game against the North Florida Christian.

Lee Ferinden/Special to The Sun

Midway through the fourth quarter those streets came back to life, as much of the crowd left before the end of the 21-6 defeat.

Chad Hempstead, who rewrote the school’s record book at quarterback, had a tough night. The senior completed just 8-of-23 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Lafayette (11-2) struggled to get its ground game going, as it compiled 71 yards rushing on 24 carries and only six first downs.

Both teams were scoreless through the first 21 minutes. Neither squad found it easy to move the ball on the other. That changed when Eagles’ quarterback Clint Trickett connected with Darrius McQueen on a 10-yard strike, set up by a Trickett-to-Melvin Ray 40-yard pass, to take a 7-0 lead.

That started a string of three straight scores for NFC. After forcing a Hornet four-and-out on their next drive, the Eagles (12-1) put together a six-play, 50-yard drive that ended the half with Trickett’s 16-yard toss to Dayne Read in the end zone.

NFC capped off its scoring with a 14-play, 65-yard drive that consumed the first 5:39 of the second half. This time, Read ran in a 3-yard score to give the Eagles a 21-0 lead.

Trickett finished 16-of-28 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

The Hornets went three-and-out on their first two drives of the second half. Both were marred by Hempstead overthrows.

The first came on second-and-17 from the Hornet 13-yard line. Hempstead misfired on a pass to a streaking Matt Milton, who was open down the middle of the field. On the next possession, the ball flew over the head of an open Sergio Perez in the back of the end zone.

After throwing only one interception all year, and four in the last two years (with 46 touchdowns), Hempstead threw a ball into a blown-up screen pass, which was tipped by a defender, and picked off by the Eagles' Cody Ledford on the third drive.

Hempstead heated up following an NFC four-and-out. It took only one play, an 88-yard bomb to receiver Jamal Reid, to get the Hornets on the board with 9:40 to play. Blade Herring’s extra point was unsuccessful, and the score stood at 21-6.

Lafayette managed only one more first down, as the offense couldn’t capitalize on what it has done all year: strong running and long passes.

“I feel like I pretty much let the team down,” said Hempstead, who fought back tears. “I missed a lot of open passes, a lot of open guys. It was on me.”

Joey Pearson, who became Lafayette’s all-time winningest coach this season in just his seventh year, praised his quarterback, and thought his team played well.

“I feel like we played hard,” Pearson said. “We missed the few opportunities we had. They took away some of the things we do best. They got into the offensive rhythm and we didn’t. It wasn’t just on Chad though, he played his butt off tonight.”

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