This year’s state playoff experience is different for the Trojans, who enter the Class AAAAAA playoffs as the top-ranked team in the state for the first time.
So, expectations will be higher for Lassiter as it hosts Brookwood in a first-round game tonight at Frank Fillmann Stadium.
Nevertheless, Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said he and his team are not too focused on their new-found notoriety.
“It doesn’t change our approach in any way,” said Irwin, whose team is 5-0 against teams that have qualified for the playoffs this year. “The No. 1 ranking and all the attention isn’t really a factor for us. Especially with Brookwood, which was state champion only two years ago and isn’t going to be impressed by us being ranked No. 1 or anything else.”
Lassiter won’t have the benefit of surprise as it did as an underdog last year, and it will have a much bigger target on its back as the top-ranked team in the state.
But Irwin believes that his squad will be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
“Our approach isn’t going to change, because we’re ranked higher,” he said. “The kids know that if we play well, we can beat anybody and if we don’t play well, anybody can beat us. We’re playing really well right now offensively and defensively. We’ve come through 10 games in pretty good shape and the kids are going to be ready to play (tonight).”
Lassiter does begin its state playoff journey armed with one of the most prolific offenses in the state, led by senior quarterback and Missouri commitment Eddie Printz, and primary targets Ryan Jenkins, a Clemson commitment, and Willie Police, Cobb County’s leading receiver with 67 catches, 1,008 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Printz comes into the game with 2,824 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. He is also within 447 yards of breaking the all-time state passing record.
“Lassiter has proven itself to be a really good football team over the course of a long season,” Brookwood coach Mark Crews said. “They are a talented bunch of guys on offense and they play tough, hard-nosed defense. We hope that we can represent our program and our region well against a quality opponent. We will have to play our best game of the season to be able to compete.”
While Brookwood (6-4) is the fourth seed from Region 8AAAAAA, it is hardly a pushover.
Brookwood has established itself among the state elite and had won the state title only two years earlier. The Broncos finished fourth in a formidable Region 8AAAAAA that features other Gwinnett state powerhouses such as Grayson, Parkview and South Gwinnett.
The Broncos feature a number of Division I-caliber players, including defensive end Shaun McGee (Georgia) and wide receiver Kyrin Priester (North Carolina State).
“They are very well coached and they have a very solid program,” Irwin said. “They have some explosive players on offense and they can be opportunistic on defense. They’re a very experienced team — they were state champions two years ago and they won a playoff game last year, so they know what it takes to succeed in the playoffs.”