Lassiter (3-0) has been largely unchallenged through the first three weeks of the season, as a result of continued success with its trademark passing game, not to mention an improved defense.
“I’m very pleased with how we have played so far this season, except for the second half against Hillgrove,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said, alluding to a game in which the Trojans took a 37-0 lead, only to withstand a feverish rally before winning 37-29. “This team is a lot of fun to coach. They compete hard and want to be good. So, that’s a lot of fun.
“We’ve been able to score a lot early on, which puts pressure on the opponent to throw more than they want. We have been able to limit big plays, for the most part. That was probably my greatest concern coming into the season with four new starters in the defensive secondary.”
Meanwhile, Cherokee (1-2) has been far more competitive this season than in past years, putting up dazzling numbers through the air as well. In last week’s loss to North Forsyth, Cherokee sophomore quarterback Spencer Ashley passed for more than 300 yards.
“We’re just preaching to try and get better, and I think it’s extremely evident, at least from an outsider’s perspective, that the kids are playing better,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “We’re also putting out a more exciting brand of football. Our quarterback threw for 320 (yards) — not that we want him doing that every week. But we feel good about what he’s done and where we’re at offensively.”
Lassiter has won its last three meetings with Cherokee, including a 62-13 win last year, in which the Trojans scored 51 first-half points. Irwin, however, said that he’s still trying to ensure that there’s no letdown when his team comes to Tommy Baker Field on Friday.
“Certainly, we are going to harp on that as best we can,” he said. “With the senior leadership and maturity that we have, we hope that helps. With Grayson and Walton getting beaten last week, that certainly helps with (complacency).
“(A letdown is) always a concern when you’re talking about high school football. People expect them to perform like adults all the time, and they’re not. They’re worried about Saturday night, third period or their girlfriends.”
While getting motivated to face one of the top five teams in the state likely won’t be an issue for Cherokee, the Warriors’ routine did change somewhat this week. Schools in Cherokee County are out for fall break, leaving the team to take a different schedule.
“We practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the morning,” Shaw said. “Our walkthrough will be Thursday afternoon and our game is on Friday night. (Our routine) changes up a little bit. It actually allows us to spend a little more time on football because there is less work on academics this week. The only day I worry about the actual game day. I’m going to do a team breakfast on Friday morning to make sure that nobody is sleeping until 1 p.m.
“I know, when I first moved to this county, (me and former Etowah coach Bill Stewart) used to stress about the schedule being different. But, at this point, with this being my seventh year in the county, you get used to it. You try to get used to it rather than allow it to be negative.”
The extra time given to Cherokee may allow it to see extra game film of Lassiter quarterback Eddie Printz and his top targets, Ryan Jenkins and Willie Police, but the Warriors will still have to find a way to limit big plays.