The Lassiter Trojans will once again boast a high-flying offense that should barely skip a beat after the loss of star wideout Charlie Hegedus to graduation. Jep Irwin’s squad reached the Class AAAAA semifinals one season ago and looks to advance even further with Eddie Printz back under center. The future UCLA Bruin will once again have Juwan Dickey on the outside as well as Ryan Jenkins, who is headed to Clemson, and junior Quincy Perdue.
Printz has really taken on even more of a leadership role leading up to his senior season according to his coach.
“He is leading workouts and throwing to the younger guys,” said Irwin earlier this summer.
Defensively, the Trojans return defensive back Robert Dowling and linebacker Josh Danforth along with Trenton Gantt up front on the defensive line. Irwin will be working in several newcomers on defense with Eric Perdue at safety, Hakim Carter at defensive back and Chris Murphy at cornerback.
Many figured the Hillgrove offense would take a step back after the departure of Kenyan Drake to Alabama, but Phil Ironside’s Hawks looked dominating in a scrimmage a few weeks ago, taking down Walton 21-16. Troy Thompson looks like he is more than capable under center and Richardre Bagley took a simple screen nearly 70 yards for a score. Look for Thompson to find Bagley and tight end Evan Engram a lot this season. Engram is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and is headed to Ole Miss. Omar Black and Justin Denton will also be options on the outside for the Hawks.
Ironside said before the season that his offense would spread the ball around to take advantage of the talent on offense.
Defensively, Tolando Cleveland leads an experienced secondary.
“We have all of our secondary back and they all started as sophomores,” said Ironside. “We’ll get a good test early on. We’ve got a good regular season schedule and it is really important to get off to a good start to stay atop the region.”
Expect plenty of points go up on the board as both of the offenses will throw the ball around the field, especially if the summer 7-on-7 camps were any indication. While many expected Lassiter to shine, Hillgrove played strong defense in addition to throwing the ball well, impressing many who witnessed the event.
Last week, Hillgrove defeated Westlake 31-15 Friday in the season opener as Thompson threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-25 passing. Hillgrove started a tad slow, as Westlake grabbed an early 7-0 lead and held through the half. But to start the second half, the Hawks scored on a 60-yard screen pass to Bagley. From there, Ironside’s squad dominated in outscoring the host Lions 17-0 in the third period.
Meanwhile, Lassiter is the only team in tonight’s event to have not yet played a game in 2012. Irwin prepared his team by focusing on its own issues throughout fall camp, but shifted the focus to the Hawks this week.
“You hope that you’ve done enough to get yourself ready to play up until game week,” said Irwin. “But we already know what we’re up against in terms of the good coaching and good players they’ve have over there. They’ve had a very good program there the past couple years.”
Irwin knows he won’t have a difficult time getting his team motivated for tonight’s game. While the other programs in the Battle for I-75 had openers last weekend, the Trojans had all offseason to think about this game.
“I think the entire offseason your players really have a big game to look forward to,” said Irwin. “Playing Hillgrove in the Battle for I-75 for Cobb County football is really big. It’s been good for us in the offseason.”
Lassiter has been a veteran of big early-season showcases having participated in the Corky Kell Classic the past two seasons. With that in mind, how important is the season-opener, especially against such a respected opponent?
“I think it all depends on how you play in that first game,” said Irwin. “I don’t think it can define your season, but it sure doesn’t hurt to get a win first.”