JACKSON — It was just a few minutes after the Lafayette Commodores won their first football state title in school history that coach Anthony Hart was asked where he felt his team ranked in the state. For those that really know Hart well, they know he’s not one to brag about himself or his coaching ability. He’s a man that always seems to find something good to say about the team his Commodores are playing. In short, he’s a pretty humble guy that believes that the little details are things that win games as much as good talent does.
Hart’s answer to the question was what you would expect of a man who puts his staff, his players and his family ahead of his himself. It was direct, but he also made sure to credit other teams in the state, who could be just as good as the Commodores even when we know they aren’t.
“That’s hard to say. I know West Point has a great team and I know Brookhaven has a great team. I don’t know if we’re better than them or not because I haven’t seen anything with them on film,” Hart said. “I know Noxubee County’s only loss was to West Point. I’m just proud of where we are. I don’t know where we would rank against those teams, but we feel good about ourselves. We really do.”
The Commodores should feel good about what they accomplished in 2010. Not only was it Lafayette’s first state football title, the team became the first to win 16 games in a season, a record that may never be broken by any other program, even the mighty South Panola, who currently only plays 15 games in a season.
Lafayette’s players demonstrated a great deal of intensity, focus and talent on the field this year. Following last season’s loss to St. Stanislaus in the state title game, the goal of getting back to Jackson for a shot at redemption drove this team to new heights and proved what a focused team can do when they play with one heartbeat.
“That was their goal. Nothing else mattered but getting back here. They were just a determined group of kids and they got it done,” LHS defensive coordinator Eric Robertson said about his defense and team overall. “I’m just thankful that God allowed me to be a part of it and this team.”
Lafayette’s victory Saturday was especially sweet for senior DeAndre Fondren because it was his birthday. The speedy defender that goes by the nickname of “Tootie” was even serenaded by “Happy Birthday” by the cheerleaders and team after the game while he held the Class 4A trophy high above his head.
It was a great moment to watch, and the raw emotion he displayed summed up a year, many years, of hard work and waiting on the part of the LHS faithful.
“It feels good to get one. I told everyone at the beginning of the season when we get back down here, we weren’t going to lose. That’s what we did,” Fondren said. “We weren’t going to stop until the horn blew. This is the bestbirthday present I ever did have. I’m never going to forget this day.”
Hart will never forget the day, the way his team came together, nor how accountable they were for their actions, both on and off the field, this season.
“One thing I look back on with this football team was we did not have one starter miss a football practice this season that we didn’t know exactly where he was. When coaches read this, they’ll know how big that is,” Hart said. “When your players are at practice and doing what they’re supposed to do, that makes my life a little easier and it’s easier to prepare for each week when everybody is there like they’re supposed to be.”
The accountability factor to each is another reason for LHS fans and anyone associated with the school district should feel proud about the team on a day and night that placed the program in the record books for all time. (December 6, 2010, Page 2B)