Lassiter quarterback Eddie Printz is in his third year as a starter after leading the Trojans to their first state semifinal appearance. Hillgrove quarterback Troy Thompson threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns in his first start last week in the Hawks 31-15 victory in their opener over Westlake.
The ground game might not take priority between these two top-10 teams.
Not only is Printz, who has committed to UCLA, returning for his final season, but also he has a new quality wide receiver that opposing teams will have to deal with. Milton transfer and Clemson commitment Ryan Jenkins will line up alongside returning starters Juwan Dickey and Willie Police.
Last season, Printz greatly improved from his sophomore season two years ago. He led Cobb Couty with 3,350 pasing yards and threw 28 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.
He lost his most reliable target in Charlie Hegedus and both his starting running backs, but has no reason to be concerned. Dickey is likely to fill Hegedus’ role after posting 924 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
“Lassiter will be a different team this year but has had great success,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “It will be a good challenge. Eddie Printz looks pretty good and he can throw it around. We will have to defend the ball and kind of contain him. We will probably have to adjust and see what’s working.”
Like Hillgrove, the Trojans will also try to figure what is working.
Offensively, Wheeler transfer Hakim Shahid is the projected starting runner with Peter Brignac getting reps as a backup, and both are expected to replace Isiah Willis and Donovan Crepsac. Defensively, they have half their starters coming back behind linebacker Josh Danforth, but will be young in the secondary.
“We have had really good practices last week and a good scrimmage with Flowery Branch,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “You hope and pray that the players are focused up this week. Hillgrove presents a lot of talent for us and they’re well-coached. They are balanced on offense. They can run it and throw it.”
Hillgrove spent most of the time throwing in last week’s game. Based on the Hawks 52 total rushing yards, they may still be experimenting with running backs after graduating Kenyan Drake, who rushed for 1,610 yards last year.
Instead, it was the receivers who made plays with Zach Katz leading with 85 yards and a touchdown. Richarde Bagley caught the other two.
With Lassiter normally aggressive on the line of scrimmage, throwing the ball may not be as simple.
“Defensively, they come from a lot of directions and do a lot of run blitz and pass blitz,” Ironside said. “There’s not a lot to it. For us, it will come down to who can make plays, and if we are relentless and can do those things, we’ll have a chance.”