The Lassiter Trojans are bringing plenty of confidence and firepower on both sides of the ball into 2012. Quarterback Eddie Printz operates the stylish and high-powered Trojan offense, and the UCLA commit is entering his third season as the starter. Juwan Dickey returns as the go-to target out wide and will be accompanied by the Milton transfer, Clemson commit and slot connoisseur Ryan Jenkins.
Defensively, Trojans head coach Jep Irwin believes there is a playmaker and leader on each level of his defense. There are enough talented megastars on this team to win a lot of games in 2012, and if last year's run was any indication, this year could be very special for the Trojans.
Lassiter had an incredible run in 2011. Irwin was in just his second season as head coach and the Trojans were coming off a 5-6 record in 2010. Lassiter stunned everybody at the Georgia Dome by beating the defending Class AAAAA state champion Brookwood Broncos in the Corky Kell Classic 14-6.
The Trojans' success continued, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, the team was clicking in high gear. In the first three rounds, the Trojans went on the road to knock off a 9-1 Alpharetta team, a 10-1 McEachern team and finally a 12-0 ML King team.
In the state semifinals, they found themselves in a rematch with their rivals, the 13-0 Walton Raiders. The Raiders took a 34-10 victory in the first matchup in a game that was more competitive than the score portrayed. In the semifinal showdown, the Trojans had a first and goal in the closing minutes down by just six points. A score and an extra point would have given them the victory and punched a ticket into the state championship. The Raiders prevailed and celebrated as Printz's fourth and goal attempt sailed out of the end zone.
When Lassiter and Walton matched up in the 2011 regular season they both held undefeated records. Irwin and Walton head coach Rocky Hidalgo knew that the winner would likely get the Region 5-AAAAA title. Hidalgo, who recognized the extra motivations outside of the teams' traditional East Cobb rivalry, dubbed it the "East Cobb Super Bowl."
About 7,000 fans and scouts filed into Raider Valley to see this regular season matchup and the Trojans got their first opportunity to stop their former teammate Tyren Jones. Jones started at running back for Trojans in his freshmen and sophomore seasons before he relocated into the Walton district. Jones joined the infamous running attack of the Raiders that, unlike the Trojans' playbook, would place him as the centerpiece. Jones' was rewarded by his decision and would go on to be the Class AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year with 2,375 yards rushing and 38 total touchdowns in 2011.
When the two schools each made deep runs in the 2011 postseason, a rematch would offer the winner a trip to the state championship, and the East Cobb Super Bowl II came to be. Thousands watched as Jones, for the second time that season, scored two touchdowns on the Trojans including his 65-yard, spin-and-sprint to the end zone that had the Raiders headed to the state championship.
"That was definitely a hard loss," said Irwin "We played four incredible teams in the playoffs, though, and making it to the state semifinals was a huge accomplishment in itself."
Jones will make his first visit to Lassiter in 2012 when the Raiders meet up with the Trojans in the sixth game of the season. Irwin states that Jones will not be a component of this rivalry like in 2011.
"I am sure our fans will be fired up when Jones comes back, but they are fired up anytime that we are playing the Raiders," said Irwin. "The Jones situation was last year for our team. He is with them now and we are past that. We just need to focus on playing well against them and getting the win."
If the two teams come out of their first five games unscathed, this could be the East Cobb Super Bowl III many Georgia high school football fans have been waiting for.
The Trojans' big losses from last year include defensive back Niles Clark, outside linebacker/safety Kene Orjioke and wide receiver Charlie Hegedus. Clark and Hegedus will both be playing for N.C. State next season and Orjioke will be at UCLA. These were incredible talents, but it seems the Trojans will be able to fill these vacancies in 2012.
Robert Dowling will takeover as the leader of the Trojans' secondary and got great experience during the Trojans' playoff run.
"Dowling was often overshadowed by Niles Clark last year, but was always playing great football for us and he especially stepped up and shut down some great receivers in the playoffs last year," said Irwin.
The middle of the defense will be led by senior linebacker/fullback Josh Danforth. Danforth returned to football last season after a brief stint with wrestling and amateur boxing. Trenton Gantt, who also has a wrestling background, will lead the defensive front in 2012 at defensive end.
"He is a little undersized, but has a tremendous motor and quickness," said Irwin.
The Trojans are returning a lot of starters, but there are several new faces that have decided to take their talents to Lassiter this year. Jenkins, who has already committed to Clemson, came from Milton to start opposite Dickey.
The Campbell Spartans lost two players to the alluring Trojans this offseason when brothers Quincy and Eric Perdue came to the conclusion that they would put up better numbers with the Trojans. Eric is a senior safety that has a potential college football future and his younger brother Quincy is a junior wide receiver that, according to sources, has BCS-level talent.
In 2011, the Wheeler Wildcats had their first four-win season since their 5-5 finish in 2007. Hakim Carter played in the secondary and at running back for the Wildcats, but he will play his senior season with the more fruitful Trojans.
Chris Murphy will be a junior and was a primary defensive back for the Harrison Hoyas last year. The gifted Murphy has already received offers from UNC, Purdue and Vanderbilt. The addition of Murphy crafts an even more dangerous Trojans secondary.
Lassiter will open with Hillgrove in the McEachern East-West Cobb Classic.
"You always want to win that first game," said Irwin. "Hillgrove is very well coached and they do not have an off-year. They are always a great team and they will be a challenge for us."
The Hillgrove Hawks were 11-1 last year but enter 2012 without their star running back Kenyan Drake, who is playing for the Crimson Tide now.
The Trojans have the makings of a team primed for a long run in 2012, and the anticipation is building as Printz and the Trojans prepare to kickoff the season Aug 31.