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Pearson along with the rest of the 2018 LHS coaching staff.  

MAYO — Right after being named Lafayette’s head football coach in 1999, Joey Pearson remembers one of the first things he did was visit with the Rotary Club of Mayo to talk Hornet football.

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Joey Pearson, in 1999, in his first season as head coach.

Twenty seasons and 148 wins later, Pearson continues to keep the community informed about Lafayette High School football.

Pearson was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club meeting last Wednesday, going into detail about the 2018 season.

“That was a long time ago,” said Pearson, recalling the exact date — July 15, 1999 — that he was named head coach. “That particular year we had four returning starters; Damien Walker and Shawn Howell on offense and Damian Walker and Shawn Howell on defense.

“A long time ago and I remember all those guys. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 20 seasons.”

Pearson, who will enter the FACA (Florida Athletic Coaches Association) Hall of Fame in January, was joined by three Hornet players on Wednesday. Junior quarterback Jaxson Beach, senior receiver/defensive back Ben Massey and senior linebacker Xavier Fleming were also on hand for the meeting.

The first topic Pearson spoke about was the renovations to the Field House, which the Lafayette School board helped fund.

“We didn’t rebuild it, but we redid the building and it turned out nice,” Pearson said. “It’s a good place to watch film. Our locker room area is easy to maintain clean. We put some stuff up for tradition — a big picture of the state championship team and state runner-up team.”

Reviewing Lafayette’s schedule, Pearson talked about the two games the Hornets have already played — an entertaining preseason game with Dixie County that saw a lot of scoring, and a good win at Brookwood — before giving a report on upcoming opponents.

He pointed out two early-season matchups that should be good games. First, a Sept. 7 home game against Chiefland and then a Sept. 14 battle when LHS travels to Jefferson County.

“Chiefland is on the rise,” Pearson said. “They beat Trenton 41-0. I think that’s going to be packed house, good environment. We go over to Jefferson and that’s always a tough place to play.”

A little later in the season, the Hornets will face Branford in the annual rivalry game. This one will have some added significance. If Lafayette beats Branford on Sept. 28, it will mark nine straight wins for LHS. That would be the longest win streak in the rivalry.

Pearson also spoke about some key players for the team this season.

“Offensively we have a lot of weapons,” said Pearson. “Jaxson (Beach) is our quarterback. Ben (Massey) has a couple offers, one from FAMU and one from Tennessee Chattanooga. (WR) Richy James is super athletic, gives us another threat over the top.”

Other players to look for include Parker Lawson, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound left tackle. After playing tight end and other positions, Joseph Perry has moved to center.

Defensively, Fleming was Lafayette’s leading tackler in the regular season opener. He’ll be joined by Blake Braswell and Levi Sutley at linebacker. Sutley will be a key player after tearing his ACL last year.

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Mike Jones is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press in North Florida.

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