MAYO —In a battle of unbeaten teams, Lafayette quarterback Jaxson Beach ran for the final two scores of the game to tie the school career rushing touchdown record and seal a win.

The Hornets downed Dixie County 27-16 in a battle of unbeatens at Dale Walker Field.

“We beat an outstanding team,” Hornet coach Mark Beach said after LHS improved to 7-0, while Dixie fell to 6-1. “It’s been eight years since our last win over them.”

Beach completed nine passes for 138 yards and ran 27 times for 189 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, including a stop by the Hornets inside the 1, Lafayette got on track with three pass completions to Adam Perry of 28, 11 and 15 yards. Mario Thomas then ran it in from 25 yards out with 10:58 left in the half to put Lafayette up 7-0. Perry finished with five catches for 85 yards.

Dixie was stymied the rest of the first half, while Lafayette got good field position after a bad punt on its own 41-yard line. From there, Jaxson Beach completed a 12-yard pass to Nic’kel Freeman and Montae Gilliard danced around defenders on a 27-yard touchdown run on a third-and-7 play to put Lafayette up 14-0 with 6:01 left in the half. Gilliard had 11 runs for 73 yards, while Freeman caught five passes for 46 yards.

“I think we did what we wanted to do,” Mark Beach said of the Hornets’ offense. “We ran the ball outside on the edge, we ran the ball inside and we also threw the ball deep a couple times and we then worked our quick-passing game on the edge.”

Trailing 14-0 in the second half, Dixie engineered a nice drive from its own 36 with Sam Cannon completing 5 of 6 passes for 50 yards. His targets were Brendon Hall and Colton Hunt, who got open along the back line of the end zone for a 6-yard TD. Paras Clines ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 14-8 Lafayette.

“We are a running team,” Dixie County coach L.B. Cravey said. “They did a really good job of filling the gaps. We need to make the blocks, spread it out a little, we just came up a short tonight.

“They took the run game away, so we moved over to the pass.”

But the Hornets came right back with big runs from Beach and Gillyard and obtained a first-and-goal just inside the 10-yard line. Consecutive penalties — including an unsportsmanlike conduct for 15 yards — made it first-and-goal from the 30-yard line. On fourth down from the 26, Beach rifled a pass that was caught a little past the back line of the end zone to thwart the scoring opportunity.

It took Dixie one play to capitalize when Cannon fired the ball long to Hunt, who raced past a fallen defender for a 74-yard TD pass. A 2-point conversion on a roll-out pass play from Cannon to Clines made it 16-14 Dixie County with 5:47 left in the third quarter.

Lafayette needed a little more than a minute to answer. Following an 18-yard pass to Freeman, Beach capped the drive with a scoring run from 15 yards out to put LHS back in front 21-16.

The Hornets looked their best on their next TD drive with Beach leaping for a first down on one running play, finding Perry for two receptions of 18 and 13 yards, before running on a keeper 31 yards to the Dixie 5-yard line where he ran it in to make it 27-16 with 8:52 left in the game. It was the 42nd rushing touchdown of the senior quarterback's career, tying former teammate Garris Edwards atop the school record book.

“We struggled with Beach,” Cravey said. “We had some really good practices, but we needed to fill the gaps better. He was doing a good job of finding the hole and hitting it.”

After another touchback and Dixie County starting on its own 20, Cannon passed to Clines for 17 yards and Hunt for 15 yards with Joe Perry making a solo tackle that prevented a big gain. After Fitzgerald Warren ran for nine yards to the Hornet 45, the Bears misfired on three consecutive plays: a dropped ball inside the Hornet 20-yard line, a ball slipping past an open receivers outstretched hands and an under thrown pass on fourth down.

LHS took over at its own 46 with 6:17 to go leading by 11 and the Bears couldn’t stop Beach, who ran eight straight times for 44 yards before taking a knee on three straight snaps to run out the clock.

“Obviously you put the ball in number 15’s hands at the end and let him go,” Mark Beach said. “He toughs things out.”

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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