Of the four, only one — Milton — has an undefeated mark like the Trojans.
That will change tonight when Lassiter visits Milton for the outright lead in a battle of region unbeatens. The second-ranked Trojans (6-0, 3-0) lead the all-time series 13-7, and have won six times over the past eight seasons, including three straight over the Eagles (5-1, 3-0).
With a victory over defending region champion Walton two weeks ago, Lassiter can put itself in the driver’s seat for the region championship and No. 1 seed in the state playoffs with a win tonight. The thought of such strong positioning isn’t lost on Lassiter coach Jep Irwin.
“Walton and Milton, I think, are both playoff teams,” he said. “So, if we can beat Milton this week, it would give us a tiebreaker over both of those teams, which would help us in seeding if we were not able to continue and win outright and be undefeated in the region. It’s about staying in control.
“We still have three region games to play after this one. Obviously, with Walton being defending region champion, getting a win over them was big, especially since it was at home. Milton is the only other undefeated team in the region, so whoever wins this game will have a really good opportunity to go ahead and win the region.”
Winning the region is important for a number of reasons, but especially this season as Region 5AAAAAA will be matched up with the very tough Region 8AAAAAA.
“Obviously, being a No. 1 seed and being matched up against the region we’re matched up with in the playoffs — Region 8 — I mean, that’s going to be huge being a No. 1 seed,” Irwin said. “They have three really good teams over there with Grayson, Parkview and Brookwood. You’d much rather play the No. 4 seed than a 3 seed.”
Considering what Lassiter did in the playoffs last year, winning three games on the road and advancing to the Class AAAAA state semifinals, the Trojans know that claiming the top seed is more for pride and the community than anything else. However, it’s also a luxury that every team craves.
“I would not recommend to anybody trying to make it to the semifinals by going on the road for every game,” Irwin said. “But I’m very proud of our accomplishment. We would much rather be playing at home, though. I think any coach would rather play at home than travel.
“Our community deserves a home playoff game, and we want to give them one. We want to give them a region championship.”
The march to that championship begins tonight against a Milton team averaging 39 points per game while giving up 22.8. Lassiter is scoring 36.7 points a game and limiting opponents to 12.3.
“Milton is a big, strong, physical team that really prides itself on being a team that works hard in the weight room and has a really good strength program,” Irwin said. “They have some good running backs and we’ve played some good running backs this year. They’re more of a ground and pound team, and they run some option. It will be important for us to have our assignments down on defense.”
Lassiter’s bye week came at a good time as it was sandwiched between Walton and Milton. Several players will be back healthier than they were before, which will help the Trojans overall.
“Offensively, we have to protect the passer better,” Irwin said. “We know what (quarterback) Eddie (Printz) can do when he has good protection, and he gets some help back this week with some receivers back to full strength. Juwan Dickey hasn’t played much since the Kell game, and Ryan Jenkins is close to 100 percent. The off week really helped us a lot.
“If we can protect the passer and run the ball a little bit — we’re averaging over 150 yards rushing, which is way up from last year — I feel like we’ll have an opportunity for our guys to go make plays.”