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Chillicothe’s Gillen Gates, right, tackles Lafayette running back Antwon Leonard from behind during Friday night’s game at Alumni Stadium.

Lafayette nearly turned back-to-back Chillicothe fumbles into a game-over scenario midway through the second half. Chillicothe nearly cut the lead to a manageable deficit just minutes later.

On Friday night, host Lafayette romped to a comfortable 44-7 victory despite a host of missed opportunities.

The Fighting Irish turned three possessions that started inside Chillicothe’s 20 into just seven points, yet they took a 30-point bulge into the halftime break. Lafayette running back Kenny Grant then returned the second half’s opening kickoff for a score to start a running clock that remained in effect for the entire third quarter and most of the fourth.

The dominant showing punctuated Lafayette’s third straight win against historic power Chillicothe, a first in the schools’ long-running series.

“That’s the challenge right now is keeping guys, every game, getting better,”said Lafayette coach Paul Woolard, who saw his team improve to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in MEC play. “It’s going to be taking care of the little things. The details are what have hurt us.”

Chillicothe (1-5, 1-3) controlled the ball for much of the first half but not the scoreboard.

Lafayette led 16-0 early in the second quarter when the first missed opportunity struck. Sophomore safety Preston Martin — starting in place of injured senior standout D’Treal Stone (knee) — tackled Chillicothe punter Zach Alperin at the Hornets’ 13 after the long snap on fourth down went wide right and forced him to hold onto the ball rather than kick it away.

A fumbled exchange between Lafayette running back Jurell Green and quarterback Drew Cortez immediately returned possession to the Hornets.

Green’s 8-yard scoring run on Lafayette’s next possession upped the lead to 22-0, and Chillicothe fumbled on its next play. Lafayette lineman Austin Drennen scooped up DeEll Midgyett’s miscue at Chillicothe’s 20 and nearly trekked into the end zone before quarterback Tyler Clampitt chased him down from behind at the 7.

Two plays later, Drennen — the Irish’s center — watched as Grant scored the second of his two 1-yard touchdowns in the first half.

“I was just thinking run — run, run, run,” Drennen said of the rare chance to carry the ball. “I was excited. I was ready. I’ve been waiting to get my chance.

“It’s OK (the running backs got the score). I love watching them run.”

Midgyett fumbled again on

Chillicothe’s next play, and Bryce Denton recovered again for Lafayette.

Despite starting at Chillicothe’s 18, the Irish’s possession ended on a failed fourth down. The Hornets then mounted their best drive of the first half, marching down to Lafayette’s 10, but four straight plays failed to net a yard and resulted in a turnover on downs.

Green scooted around the right side behind a pull block from guard Foster Brown on the next play and raced 90 yards down the visitor’s sideline for the Irish’s fourth touchdown of the first half. Chillicothe kept the score down as long as possible but managed only 86 yards of offense in the first half — 70 on back-to-back runs for reserve running back Tyler Long that put the Hornets on the brink of a score to cut the lead from 22-0 to a two-score deficit.

Instead, Green’s big touchdown made it 30-0 with 2:27 left before the break after Chillicothe gave the Irish too many chances.

“They’ve got a very talented football team,” Chillicothe coach Phil Willard said. “If they can cut down on some little mistakes, they’re going to make some noise; they could make some noise in state because they have that kind of

talent.”

The second-half kickoff hit Lafayette up-man Tyler Burgess before Grant scooped it up, started and stopped twice before finding a seam for a 78-yard score to cap off his three-score day.

Green finished with 129 yards on eight carries, seven for 109 coming in the first half.

Ross Martin can be reached

at ross.martin@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPSports.