For Etowah, a win would keep its bid to make the state playoffs for a seventh-straight year alive.
Only one thing is for sure — one of the Region 5AAAAAA teams will leave Eagle Stadium tonight disappointed.
After winning its first nine games and cementing the region title, second-ranked Lassiter (9-0, 6-0) will have to overcome an Etowah squad that has defeated the Trojans two years running.
Lassiter coach Jep Irwin still remembers the 17-14 defeat that the Eagles handed the Trojans (4-5, 3-4) last year, and he believes that for his team to emerge victorious to night, they will have to avoid a repeat performance.
“The last two years, they have slowed us down on offense by using multiple fronts. They did a good job of mixing up their coverage’s and were very physical up front,” Irwin said. “Our offensive line hasn’t been able to block well against them the last two years, and if that happens again this year, it’s going to be difficult to score.”
While a loss wouldn’t affect Lassiter’s seeding in the playoffs, or it winning the region title, Irwin wants the Trojans to enter the postseason filled with confidence from a perfect regular season.
“There are only 16 teams right now in the state that are undefeated, and we could be one of them. It would be a huge accomplishment for our kids,” Irwin said. “We want an unblemished slate going into the playoffs.”
To do that, Irwin said that Lassiter would have to beat an Etowah team that is much better than its record indicates.
“When I watch them, I see a sound football team that could have a much better record than the one they have now,” Irwin said.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla agreed with Irwin’s assessment of his team.
“I think that, when our kids watch the film of their own performances, they see that, when we’re able to execute the fundamentals, we are a pretty good football team on the field,” Svehla said. “Four of our five losses have been games where we had the ball at the very end and had a chance to win, but we just didn’t do it. We have to figure how to put the ball in the end zone.”
For Svehla, Etowah’s struggles this year are the result of it being its own worst enemy.
“All year long, it hasn’t been so much a matter of us being outclassed by our opponent, but by us not making plays when we needed to and having inopportune turnovers and penalties,” Svehla said. “If you want to be a good football team, you have to take care of those things. To beat Lassiter, we’re going to have to be an awfully good team.”
To upset the Trojans, Svehla feels the Eagles will have to stop quarterback Eddie Printz the only sure way they know how — by keeping him off the field.
“We are not going to stop him. Nobody stops him,” Svehla said of Printz, who has thrown for 2,560 yards this season — an average of 284 per game. “We are just going to try to minimize the damage. The goal is to keep the game within reach early and keep the ball out of their hands. We don’t have to score every time if we can move the chains to get the field position in our favor. We don’t need to give them a short field.”
Though Lassiter could use tonight’s game to rest up for the postseason, Irwin said he has no plans of allowing his players to take it easy.
“We are going to play to win,” Irwin said. “Obviously, if someone gets hurt and is at risk of missing the playoffs, we’ll probably take them off the field, but we want to win. We aren’t OK with losing gracefully. We want to finish the season 10-0.”