But when it counted, the senior made the two most important plays Friday in the second-ranked Trojans’ 21-9 win over Walton at Frank Fillmann Stadium.
“Patrick Levandoski made two of the biggest plays in the game,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “Here’s a guy that didn’t even start until this year, and he changed positions. And he has made so many big plays for us. He’s a testament to the kind of kids we have here at Lassiter. He picked off the pass that stopped (Walton’s) last drive, or next-to-last drive. Then, he tackled (Walton running back) Tyren (Jones) and forced a fumble that stopped a touchdown.”
With just over 3 minutes to play in the game, Walton (4-2, 2-1 Region 5AAAAAA) had the ball at Lassiter’s 13-yard line, down 21-9. Walton quarterback Price Wilson, starting for the injured Parker McLeod, went back to pass after a play-action fake, and hurled the ball toward the end zone on a post pattern.
However, Levandoski read the play immediately and made the interception for the Raiders’ third turnover of the game.
“My coaches keyed me up and told me that was where they were most likely going to throw it,” he said. “So, I just jumped on it and made it mid-play. I saw a tight end come out, and that was my job. I just did what my coaches told me to do.”
The result at the end of the game could have been far different for the Trojans (6-0, 3-0), if not for a massive momentum changer at the end of the first half.
Leading 9-6, Walton had the ball in the red zone once again. Jones carried the ball through a hole in the middle and appeared ready to break a tackle and score, but Levandoski not only made the tackle, he popped the ball loose at the Lassiter 6.
The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Josh Danforth for a touchback.
“Oh my goodness, I don’t think you understand how critical those (turnovers) were for all of us,” Lassiter linebacker Ryan Gildea said after the game, wearing a crown on his head after his halftime coronation as homecoming king, and bloody wrist tape on his left wrist. “The fumble recovery and the pick set the game up right there. That was probably the momentum turner. If I don’t see that one in the paper (today), I don’t know what I will see.”
Though Levandoski was able to make plays in the secondary, much of the reason why was due to Lassiter’s defensive pressure. The Trojans finished with five sacks, and often hurried Wilson.
Walton’s offensive line, which hasn’t seen the same five starters all season, was hampered often in pass protection. Wilson, a junior had made only one other career start at quarterback in prior to Friday’s game.
“We’ve had some consistency issues on the offensive line because we’ve had so many guys here or there,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “We’re not playing really well on the offensive line, and it showed up in the second half. We’re struggling in pass protection because of that.
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into throwing the ball — protection, knowing what the defense does and the routes run by the receivers. So, it was hard out there for (Wilson on Friday) because we struggled in protection.”
Wilson finished the game 3-for-13 passing for 86 yards and two interceptions. On the ground, he had a 1-yard touchdown run, but he ultimately finished with minus-43 yards on six carries, due largely to the five sacks he took.
Offensively, Walton was able to get Jones his yardage (32 carries for 187 yards), but the Raiders weren’t able to get much else done due to problems with the offensive line.
As a result of the team’s defensive effort, Lassiter was able to maintain its undefeated start, nut more than that, the Trojans were able to exact revenge on a rival that it lost twice to last season — something not lost on the team or the standing-room-only crowd that filled “The Frank.”
“Everyone is close together — tight-knit together — and I don’t know many people were here,” Gildea said. “But it was jam-packed. … Getting that ‘W’ (on Friday), that little taste of victory was sweet revenge.
“We could feel the vibrations. The decibel level was insane. We had a pep rally (Friday) and told them directly to rock the house. ‘Let’s rock it so all of east Cobb can hear it. If that can happen, then we’re going to win this game. If we can distract Walton and get ourselves pumped up, then we’re going to win this game.’”