After building a cozy 37-point halftime lead over Hillgrove, Lassiter needed to chew off the remaining 4 minutes of clock before finally putting the Hawks away and securing a 37-29 victory at McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium.
The nightcap of the made-for-TV doubleheader, between Walton and McEachern, was a physical and evenly matched game before the Raiders finally prevailed 37-35 on Anthony Price’s 43-yard field goal. Tyren Jones led the Walton offense once again with 329 more yards, giving him 638 after just two games.
In the process, the Alabama-bound back narrowly avoided serious injury late in the first half, when he was at the receiving end of an illegal hit to the head from McEachern linebacker Kell Parham. Jones sustained a bloody nose, according to Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo, but he was cleared to play in the second half.
A few plays earlier, Parham had made a similar hit on Walton tight end Brad Green. Green never returned to the game, and Parham was ejected following his hit on Jones.
“They’re both OK,” Hidalgo said Saturday. “Brad has a bruised sternum and is day-to-day, depending on his symptoms. Tyren’s fine. (The injury) was his helmet coming down and hitting him in the nose. That’s what happened to him more than anything.”
During the first half of the Lassiter-Hillgrove game, it seemed as if the Trojans were moving the ball with ease.
Quarterback Eddie Printz got his receivers involved, often turning short passes into long gains, and Lassiter scored on every first half drive except for one.
“I don’t know who was more surprised, me or (Hillgrove) coach (Phil) Ironside on how well we played the first half, and they didn’t play very well in the first half,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “We have a lot of work, and I have a lot of work to do to get the team prepared to play a four-quarter game next week against Sprayberry.”
Hillgrove had a first-half lapse for the second straight week. The Hawks trailed at the half in their season opener against Westlake a week ago before things clicked in the second half of a 31-15 win.
In the first half against Lassiter’s defense, quarterback Troy Thompson was constantly under pressure against Lassiter’s front seven, making it tough for him to get into sync.
All that changed in the second half, once the Hawks made adjustments.
Hillgrove stormed back into the game by scoring four unanswered second-half touchdowns, taking advantage of two Lassiter turnovers in the process, as well as converting an onside kick.
Thompson nearly matched Printz’s passing totals with a strong second-half performance, throwing for 239 yards — 1 yard shy of Printz’s total. All of Evan Engram’s 128 receiving yards came after halftime.
“We caught some balls and got some screens off,” Ironside said. “We started moving the ball, and that was a little ‘funner.’ The defense also started playing better and it was a little ‘funner.’”
Marietta bounced back from a tough loss to Newnan to defeat Pope 27-7 behind Anthony Jennings’ 230 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also rushed for a 23 yards and another two scores.
Kennesaw Mountain returned to the win column for the first time in more than a year by beating Sprayberry 28-24 at home on Jamari Carter’s 4-yard touchdown. South Cobb needed an 11-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run by Stephon Masha to secure a 29-22 win over Westlake.
Harrison, Allatoona and North Cobb also won their season openers, while Whitefield Academy, Mount Paran Christian and Pebblebrook will attempt to bounce back from tough losses.