JASPER — The 2014 Hamilton County Trojans were fast, talented and knew how to win close games.
The 1981 Lafayette Hornets were also talented, but didn’t have much experience in close games on the way to winning the Class 1A state championship.
The Hornets, seeded second, will now try and continue those dominant ways against those Trojans in the first round of the Best of the Suwannee Valley pick ‘em tournament.
Hamilton County earned impressive wins in the 2014 regular season against Fort White, Union County and Lafayette before advancing all the way to the Class 1A state championship game.
Quarterback Kentwan Daniels threw for 868 yards, rushed for 952 yards and had a combined 21 touchdowns. Malik Randolph ran for 667 yards and averaged more than 7 yards per rush while LaMarcus Webb was the leading receiver with 23 catches for 464 yards and seven touchdowns.
“A lot of big-time playmakers on that team,” said Ryan Mitchell, who was the voice of the Trojans on the radio. “It was the second of back-to-back district titles. Exceptional senior leadership also from Hunter Hill, Ethan Land, Marcus Williams and Deangelo Robinson.”
Land had a team-best 77 tackles, including eight sacks, while Robinson tallied 66 tackles.
There were some special moments in the playoffs, including a second-round win against a strong Trenton team.
“To beat Trenton 45-20 in Trenton – that just didn’t happen,” said Mitchell. “They had won state the year before, and then won it again the next year. About midway through the first quarter we started to take over and it was 31-14 at the half.”
After losing to Dixie County in the regular season, the Trojans defeated the Bears in a state semifinal to reach the title game.
In 1981, the Hornets were nearly unchallenged. Behind a star-studded offense led by quarterback Kerwin Bell and running back Joseph Edwards, Lafayette had outscored its opponents 480-29 entering the playoffs. The Hornets notched six shutouts on the year.
Taylor McGrew, the offensive coordinator for Dale Richter in 1981, said his job was easy with the talent at his disposal.
“I always said if you have a quarterback, a tailback and a wide receiver and a decent offensive line, offensively you can do some things,” he said. “We just had a lot on offense.
“With our personnel, my wife who didn’t care a whole lot about football, I could just give her the plays on a sheet and she could have picked any one of them out and call it and we still would have won most of those games.”
Who would win?
Joining Bell — who threw for 1,486 yards and 27 touchdowns — and Edwards — 1,594 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing — were fellow All-State performers Ben Travis (wide receiver), Willie Powe (tight end) and offensive linemen Lloyd Powe, Clark Hendrick and Tommy Pearson. And with the lopsided outcomes — only three games, Dixie County (37-7), Florida High (34-0) and St. Johns Lutheran (32-8) were within 35 points — McGrew said Edwards barely played in the second half that year.
In the state semifinal, LHS finally was challenged, outlasting Baker 13-10 by leaning on Edwards in a game where Bell was under the weather.
The Hornets then downed Frostproof 25-8 for the title.
“To me, that’s the best team we’ve had since I’ve been around,” McGrew said.
Editor Jamie Wachter contributed to this story.