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Lafayette routs Interlachen in spring football

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Rising sophomore Nic'Kel Freeman made some big plays for Lafayette at wide receiver in Thursday's spring game.   

INTERLACHEN, Fla. — Some of the names have changed, but it was the same explosive Lafayette football team during Thursday’s spring game at Interlachen.

Montae Gillyard ran for three touchdowns in his first appearance as Lafayette’s featured running back and rising senior Jaxson Beach completed passes to a number of receivers — most of them newcomers — in the Hornets’ 48-14 victory.

Skill players Robert Mattern, Mario Thomas and Nic'Kel Freeman, who figure to be key pieces of the offense in the fall, showcased their playmaking ability. The defense also did its part with two interceptions, a forced fumble and some dominating play up front.  

“A lot of emotion. I’m very proud of them,” Mark Beach said after his first game as the Hornets’ head coach. “Coach (Joey) Pearson did a great job and the legacy that he left and the expectation from the community. It was good to see our guys play tough, Hornet football.

“A lot of our young guys got some good touches and great experience.”  

Totaling 397 yards of offense, Lafayette marched up and down the field the entire game and scored on seven of its nine possessions. When Beach wasn’t running the show, backup quarterback Jackson Ward got the job done with eight completions in 13 attempts. Ward threw for 92 yards and a touchdown. 

Beach finished 12 of 16 for 125 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He ran for 69 yards on five carries. 

In all, 10 receivers caught passes for LHS. Freeman led the receiving group with three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. It took the Hornets just two minutes to score on their opening possession. They went into halftime with a comfortable 34-0 lead.

“We just didn’t get the reps we need in the spring. I thought we were going to have some more drops from those young guys,” said Mark Beach. “They showed some spark and some life for us out there catching the ball.”

Gillyard (six carries, 70 yards) showed off his quickness at running back while Mattern and Thomas switched between running back and receiver. 

On defense, Freeman and Joseph Perry had one interception each. Freeman returned his interception 60 yards to set up Lafayette’s final touchdown of the first half. Nose guard Tristen Deas, who shed some weight in the offseason, helped the Hornets control the game up front. In the second quarter, Mattern forced a fumble that Freeman recovered.

The only touchdowns of the night for the Rams came in the second half against Lafayette’s second-team defense.  

“They were being physical. We were flying around. I think they all played good,” Mark Beach said of the defense.

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