District title always top priority for Lafayette
Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 5:54 p.m.
Joey Pearson enters his 15th season as head football coach at his alma mater, leading his Hornets to the state playoffs the last eight years. No other school in the area can boast such an accomplishment.
2012 record: 9-3 (Class 1A regional finalists)
Coach: Joey Pearson (15th year, 114-44)
Key games: Aug. 30 vs. Trenton; Oct. 18 at Jefferson County; Nov. 8 vs. Dixie County
Players to watch: Brycen Lee, QB, Jr.; Austin Moody, OL, Sr.; Lee Jones, RB, Jr.; Kenny Johnson, LB, So.
(all games start at 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 30 Trenton
Sept. 6 Tallahassee Maclay
Sept. 13 at Bell
Sept. 20 at Tallahassee FAMU
Sept. 27 Potter's House Christian
Oct. 4 Hamilton County*
Oct. 11 Idle
Oct. 18 at Jefferson County*
Oct. 25 P.K. Yonge
Nov. 1 at Branford*
Nov. 8 Dixie County
Last year's District 5-1A title was the school's sixth league crown in eight years. District titles have always been the No. 1 priority going into a season, and Lafayette seems the team to beat once again in 2013.
“If we can win a district championship, that's our first goal,” Pearson said. “To me, that means we have had a good season. Then let the chips fall where they may if you can get to the playoffs. Hopefully, you can get some games at home.”
The biggest district test will come Oct. 18 when Lafayette travels to Monticello to face Jefferson County, 1A state champions two years ago, which has a new coach in Vic Culley. A year ago in Mayo, the Hornets rallied with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to edge the Tigers, 21-20, en route to the league title.
Hamilton County, which visits Oct. 4, also has a new coach in Blair Armstrong, who has won state titles at Jefferson County and in Georgia. The four-team District 5-1A also includes Branford.
“Our expectations are to definitely be in the thick of the district race, with a chance to play for our district championship, hopefully, and play a bunch of playoff games and try to make a run at that point,” Pearson said.
Offensively, the Hornets lost one of the area's top rushers in J.R. Bass and one of the area's top receivers in Rodney Brown, but Pearson believes this year's team could be more versatile behind 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Brycen Lee.
“Losing J.R. Bass will force us to be more balanced,” Pearson said. “Last year Brycen had J.R. and Rodney to turn to. This year he will have to show more leadership out there. I think he is ready.”
Lee was a first team all-area performance as a sophomore in 2012, passing for 1,465 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. Pearson expects the running game to be more by committee, led by Lee Jones (433 yards, 4 TDs), a starter a year ago, and Jajaun Commacho (347 yards, 7.54 yards per carry, 3 TDs), who played quite bit at tailback last season.
Tim Fleming, who played primarily at cornerback a year ago and had just one reception on offense, will be the go-to receiver this season, much like Brown was last season.
“On the offensive line, we will have Austin Moody, who is the only returning starter,” Pearson said. “He has to establish some leadership on the line.”
Although the Hornets lost some defensive starters from a year ago, Pearson believes this year's squad can be just as good if not better. It will certainly get a test in their season opener when defending 1A state finalist and rival Trenton Tigers come to Mayo on Aug. 30.
In the last two seasons, Lafayette has opened with a loss to Trenton and ended its season with a playoff lost to those same Tigers.
“It is going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Pearson said. “But also a big measuring stick for us to start out with them on Aug. 30. We got them in Mayo this year, which we hope will help. We are really looking forward to the opportunity to see where we are at against a great team.”