One major change as of late is that more teams are doing away with running the football and chewing clock, instead reverting to taking care of business in the air. That’s one explanation why members of teams’ secondaries are getting more attention from major colleges than in years past.
But the two games at McEachern went unusually long.
Hillgrove beat Walton 47-35 in a game that started at 6 p.m. and took more than 3½ hours to play. The nightcap between Lassiter and McEachern was scheduled for 9 p.m. and didn’t kick off until after 10. When McEachern’s 42-28 victory was official — with a delay for a power outage along the way — it was close to 2 a.m.
“I knew it was going to be a late night for us,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “Both games were high-scoring, and you have TV timeouts, too. Certainly, you don’t want to play a game that late, but you can’t play any game before 6 if you want to get a crowd. It was a challenge we had to manage.”
When games are on air, TV timeouts automatically tack on to the running length of games. But there were other factors during the “Battle of I-75” that made for a much longer night than anticipated.
Both games featured 70 points or more. There was also a 20-minute delay following halftime of the McEachern-Lassiter game because the stadium lights were timed to go off at midnight.
Furthermore, Hillgrove and Walton combined for 20 penalties, with McEachern and Lassiter totaling 16. And that doesn’t include the flags that were waved off.
Walton dropped passes early against Hillgrove, stopping the clock. The Raiders, known to be a running team, attempted 46 passes, with Price Wilson finishing the game with 286 yards and three touchdowns. Hillgrove’s Elijah Ironside completed 19 of 27 pass attempts for 375 yards.
The first half of the Walton-Hillgrove game took well over an hour-and-a-half. The fourth quarter was also lengthy, as the teams combined for four touchdowns and a field goal.
Lassiter-McEachern was just as long, yet both teams were more successful from the ground. The Indians had 420 rushing yards, but penalties erased some big gains, stopping the clock and taking the teams longer to set up for the next play.
Neither quarterback threw the ball well.
Lassiter’s Will Anderson only completed 40 percent of his passes in his first start before he was shaken up in the fourth quarter after getting sacked by Christian Wade. He was replaced by Russell Aarons, who did have a 19-yard touchdown pass late to keep Lassiter in the game.
McEachern quarterback Ty Clemons, whose strength is using his legs, was 6-of-8 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but he was just 1-for-5 in the second.
“It’s very hard for 17- and 18-year-olds to be playing this late,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “Just wished we played better when we had a 14-point lead (in the third quarter).”
Kennesaw Mountain’s season-opening 48-27 victory at Sprayberry also eclipsed the three-hour mark, and those teams didn’t have to worry about TV timeouts. The reasons that game took so long was somewhat of a mystery to coach Andy Scott.
“We ran the ball all night. I’m not sure why but it was a long one,” Scott said. “There were situations where officials had to meet and discuss issues. The game took a long time for sure.”
There were a combined 75 points scored, with five touchdowns coming from 30 or more yards out. Each team also had eight penalties, and they combined for seven turnovers.
In comparison, Marietta’s 63-13 win over Pope, which led to a running clock in the second half, started 1½ hours after the Hillgrove-Walton game, but it wrapped up before the Hillgrove and Walton players could shake hands.