Senior quarterback Eddie Printz passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 19 completions, overshadowing an impressive performance by Lassiter’s defense in the Region 5AAAAAA game. The Trojans (4-0, 1-0) sacked Cherokee quarterback Spencer Ashley eight times and forced four turnovers.
“We had a few guys hurt, and a few guys suspended because of disciplinary reasons, so we were kind of short-handed,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “But we had a lot of young guys step up — some were getting their first varsity action.”
The Trojans may have been short-handed, but it was Cherokee (1-3, 0-1) that faced a quick deficit from the game’s early going.
Lassiter opened with an eight-play, 64-yard drive, culminating in a 24-yard scoring run by Willie Police. Irwin elected to try for a 2-point conversion, which proved successful as Printz found Police in the corner of the end zone to put the visitors up 8-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.
Police led the Trojans in rushing with 64 yards on eight carries, and he also caught four passes for 81 yards and another touchdown.
Cherokee started its first offensive possession in frustrating fashion, losing a fumble at its own 27. Four plays later, Lassiter kicker Luke Hardin connected on a 33-yard field goal to put the Trojans up 11-0 before Cherokee could even run its second offensive play.
“You just can’t make turnovers against the second-ranked team in the state,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “That’s something we have to improve on. We also missed some tackles, and they caused us some problems when they got in space. They are great athletes.”
Cherokee’s athleticism was on display later in the second quarter, when Ashley found Andrew Harris on a slant route in the end zone for the Warriors’ only score of the night, briefly cutting the Lassiter lead to 21-6.
Ashley finished the game 13-of-18 for 67 yards.
Just before halftime, Printz contributed to the running game when he fooled the Cherokee defense with a fake handoff and waltzed into the end zone for a 1-yard score, putting the Trojans ahead 27-6 going to the locker room.
Lassiter was on cruise control in the second half, adding a 7-yard touchdown run by Hakim Shahid and a 63-yard scoring pass from Printz to Police.
Both coaches took time to look ahead after Friday’s contest as play continues in the region.
For Lassiter, the next test comes with Woodstock.
“I have a lot of respect for coach (Brent) Budde and his staff,” Irwin said. “It’s region play. It’s going to be like this from here on out. There are no weak sisters in this region we play in.”
For Cherokee, it must face another powerhouse program in Walton.
“We need to focus on tackling a lot better, especially when we’re getting ready to face Tyren Jones,” Shaw said of the Raiders’ talented running back. “Tackling is going to be a big emphasis this week, and obviously we’ll also work on holding on to the football.”