Hillgrove will have to figure out how to be a better first-half team.
After taking a 37-point halftime lead, Lassiter thwarted Hillgrove’s massive second-half rally on the game’s final drive and held on to win 37-29 on Friday in the “Battle of I-75” at McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium.
Lassiter sealed the win in the final 4 minutes by not allowing Hillgrove to get the ball back.
“I told the team that they should be proud to have won the game against a good (Hillgrove) team,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “You saw what they were made of in the second half. They didn’t have any quit in them.
“We started extremely fast in the game, and we finished the game really strong during the last 4 minutes. But, in the second half, we didn’t play very well.”
Lassiter (1-0) was phenomenal in the first half. With the exception of a bad snap or two, it seemed as if the Trojans could do nothing wrong, and they scored on every drive but one to take a seemingly insurmountable lead at the break.
Quarterback Eddie Printz had more than 200 passing yards in the first half, with a pair of touchdowns, before finishing the game with 240. Willie Police had more than 100 receiving yards and a touchdown before he finished with 114. Lassiter also added a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first quarter.
Lassiter got on the board on the fourth play of the game, when Ryan Dowling picked off a Troy Thompson pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
Hillgrove (1-1) then began making plays, and Lassiter began making mistakes.
Lassiter put constant pressure on Thompson throughout the first half, not allowing him to get rhythm in the pocket, but once he adjusted in the second half, Thompson was more effective.
Evan Engram finished with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown — all coming in the second half — and Thompson finished with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns after throwing for just 37 yards the entire first half.
The momentum shifted in Hillgrove’s favor early in the third quarter, when Trayvon Simmons intercepted a Printz pass and returned it to the Lassiter 17-yard line. The Hawks finished their drive with a 2-yard screen from Thompson to Aaron Bailey.
The Hawks scored again late in the third quarter by finishing a 12-play drive that ended with Thompson sneaking in from 1 yard out.
“(Halftime) speeches don’t win ballgames because, if they do, we would all show up and give one,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “Two weeks in a row, we would come out flat early. We have to address that as coaches, and we will. I thought the kids responded very well (in the second half) and was proud of them.”
Lassiter controlled the clock early in the fourth quarter and was set to put the game away midway through by moving the ball to the Hillgrove 17 midway through the period.
However, the Trojans’ 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and they nearly paid for it.
Thompson threw an 88-yard screen to Engram for a touchdown three plays later to cut it to 37-21 with 5 minutes left to play. The Hawks then recovered an onside kick and scored a minute later on a 20-yard touchdown run by Richardre Bagley.
The Hawks went for the 2-point conversion and made it, cutting the Lassiter lead to eight points with 4 minutes left and putting more pressure on the Trojans.
Lassiter held on to the ball for the remainder of the game. Printz made a clutch 7-yard scramble on third-and-6 to keep a drive alive, and he got help when Hillgrove was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.