Last year: Lassiter 21, Walton 9
All-time series: Walton leads 20-11
Prediction: Walton 21, Lassiter 20
Walton is undefeated in Region 5AAAAAA along with Milton and Etowah. Defending region champion Lassiter is still very much in the mix.
The teams, who met in the state semifinals two years ago, aren’t quite where they want to be.
Walton has shown both flashes of brilliance — and struggles — this season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Following a strong showing in its 38-10 win over Cherokee, the Raiders are looking to put it all together a second straight week when Lassiter visits Raider Valley tonight.
Walton had its better games over Cherokee and a win over North Cobb three weeks ago, but struggled defensively in its loss to Hillgrove and its 44-40 shootout win over Woodstock. The key for the Raiders is curing the mental errors on both sides of the ball.
“Our focus is to be focused at practice,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “We have to continue to move forward as a team and do what we’re coached to do.”
Lassiter entered the season with a new quarterback and mostly new receivers and it’s offense is making strides, having scored more than 40 points in its last two games. It’s primary concern is giving up more than 40 points a game over the last two weeks, and most of its defensive players from last year’s team are back.
The Trojans have returning defensive players learning different positions, and the secondary is younger, but coach Jep Irwin said their defense isn’t held entirely accountable. Lassiter had four turnovers on offense in its 43-42 loss to Woodstock, that led to points, and they accumulated more than 100 yards of penalties as a team. There have also been special team breakdowns over the last two weeks.
For Lassiter, it’s going to come down to playing all four quarters and minimizing mistakes and penalties.
“Every play is important,” Irwin said. “It’s important that we played to the best of our ability on every play because that play could be the turning point of the game.”
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Roswell (2-3, 0-2) at Wheeler (2-3, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Wheeler 17, Roswell 14
All-time series: Roswell leads 10-8
Prediction: Roswell 20, Wheeler 17
Wheeler hit a skid following two dominant wins over Sprayberry and Pope to begin the season. Since then, the Wildcats have lost three in a row and is looking to snap that streak when they host Roswell tonight.
Wheeler can’t afford another region loss, not with Walton and Lassiter still on its schedule. But if the Wildcats bounced back from an 0-2 region deficit last year to make the playoffs, they can do it again.
Like last season, Wheeler will have to win three of its remaining five to have a chance.
However, the Wildcats will have to do it without quarterback Elijah Staley.
Staley, a Mississippi State commitment, was dismissed from the team earlier this week because of what Score Atlanta reported as a disagreement over play-calling.
That means Wheeler will likely turn the offense over to Ryles Kirkland, who filled in for Staley during the second half of last week’s game.
Another problem for Wheeler during the last three games has been running the football and stopping the run. The Wildcats must continue to get running back Devontae Jackson involved after a strong start to the season.
After scoring on its opening drive in its 38-9 loss to Milton last week, Wheeler’s offense went quiet. In the second half, Wheeler generated just 92 yards.
Defensively, Wheeler yielded 188 rushing yards to the Eagles, who were missing their standout rusher, Tennessee-bound Treyvon Paulk, who is out for the season with an ACL tear.
“Those are the things we’ve been looking at and trying to get corrected,” Wheeler coach Mike Collins said. “Starting this week, our practices have been more physical, and if we can practice at this tempo and be more physical on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we can be ready for Friday night.”
— By Adam Carrington