MAYO — Featuring a fast-paced offense and an array of quick and talented skill players, Lafayette High raced past Hamilton County 49-14 in the season opener Friday night at Dale Walker Field.
After recovering an onside kick to open the game, the Hornets went right to work.
Quarterback Jaxson Beach fired three straight completions to the left side caught by receiver Adam Perry before running back Montae Gillyard ran it in from 12 yards out to put the Hornets up 7-0 less than a minute into the game.
Hamilton’s offense featured a lot of running, especially by quarterback Tyler Whetstone, an elusive runner with quick acceleration who could switch directions easily. Whetstone had an eight-yard run on the Trojans’ opening drive.
There were a lot of tough runs in the drive, including a pitch out to Ahmawe Bell on third-and-5 on Lafayette’s 15-yard line. Bell got outside for a first down at the 5-yard line. But on third down the drive stalled when Hornet Max Byrd made a good tackle on Bell on another pitch for a loss. And on fourth and goal from the 8, Hamilton couldn’t convert on a fake field goal to conclude a nine-minute drive.
But the Hornets soon fumbled and Nigel Cherry scooped up the ball and returned it 35 yards for a Trojan touchdown to tie the score at 7 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Hornets, though, answered right back.
A would-be 73-yard scoring run by Gillyard was negated by a penalty but several plays later, Beach ran in a touchdown early in the second quarter to put Lafayette ahead for good.
The Hornets recovered their second onside kick of the night when the ball took a bad bounce. From Hamilton’s 38, Beach hit receiver Nickel Freeman for a touchdown on the first play to make it 21-7. Freeman also had a 39-yard reception.
Perry, who caught a lot of early passes, finished with six receptions for 45 yards.
“We wanna play basketball on the field,” Lafayette coach Mark Beach said after winning his head coaching debut with the Hornets. “We run fast breaks.”
On the last drive before half and trailing 35-7, Hamilton started out with a 20-yard run by Bell, who finished with 75 yards on 12 carries, and a few plays later a Jeremiah Gibson reception and run gave Hamilton a first-and-goal right before halftime. But Hamilton was stopped on downs.
“We were willing to give up some throws in order to stop the run,” Mark Beach said about Hamilton’s success throwing the football.
The Hornets scored two times in the second half on drives that lasted about three minutes combined. They capped off the scoring with a 51-yard TD pass from Beach to Nathan Pearson.
Beach completed 12 of 18 passes for 147 yards, and had some long runs of 16,10, 15 and 59 yards.
Hamilton’s effort never subsided and the Trojans again drove the ball down the field with Whetstone scoring on a short run. The drive featured a 20-yard run by Whetstone on a fourth-and-3. That was his longest run of the night as he finished with 15 carries for 44 yards.
Lafayette hosts Brookwood (Ga.) next Friday night, while Hamilton hosts Fort White in its home opener. Brookwood enters 1-0 after a 14-7 win against Westwood on Friday night.
Fort White is 0-1 after dropping its season opener Friday 28-7 to Suwannee.