Lassiter, Walton look back on long history
by John Bednarowski
sportseditor@mdjonline.com
November 30, 2011 12:54 AM | 3149 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Lassiter and Walton meet in Friday night’s Class AAAAA semifinal, it will be the teams’ first meeting in the state playoffs.

It will also be a rematch of their game played in September, during the Region 5AAAAA season, but this won’t be the first time the longtime rivals have faced off more than once in the same year.

In 1986, Lassiter and Walton actually faced each other three times.

Two of the games had been scheduled all along. The teams needed a non-region game to fill out their schedules and decided to use the budding rivalry to their advantage.

“We were trying to make money,” said Dexter Wood, who coached at Lassiter from 1984-86 before moving on to Marietta. “We were trying to build a stadium, and we both knew it was a good rivalry and would be a good gate.”

The third time the teams met that season, the Region 5AAAA championship was at stake.

“We were a really good football team that season,” said Wood, who later became a successful coach at Buford High School, where he now serves as athletic director. “They were just a little better.”

Walton won all three games that season — 33-5 and 33-9 during the regular season, and then 22-3 for the region title. It was the first region championship in the Raiders’ history, and the reason it may have been a little better was the combination of running back Chuck Carswell and quarterback G.A. Mangus.

Carswell would go on to play as a cornerback and punt returner at Georgia, while Mangus played for Steve Spurrier at Florida and now serves as Spurrier’s quarterbacks coach at South Carolina. The duo could have easily been mistaken for an earlier version of the Raiders’ current 1-2 punch of Tyren Jones and Parker McLeod, respectively.

In those three games, Carswell ran for 416 yards and five touchdowns, while Mangus was more than an effective thrower when he needed to be.

There are similarities between the ’86 and ’11 Trojans, too. While Wood said he didn’t run the spread offense that current Lassiter quarterback Eddie Printz runs, he was not afraid to throw it around a little bit.

“We were a combination of the Wing-T and the run-and-shoot,” Wood said. “We played a diverse offense.”

His counterpart at Walton, Steve Jones, said the diversity made it hard to game-plan.

“Each game we played, that season got a little closer,” said Jones, now the director of athletics for the Cobb County School District. “It’s hard to beat a team twice, let alone three times.”

While each of the games in ’86 were entertaining on the field, Lassiter’s students may have provided the most vivid memory during the Trojans’ second game with Walton, on Halloween night at Sprayberry’s Jim Frazier Stadium.

As kickoff drew near, the students staged what the Marietta Daily Journal reported at the time a skit of a mock funeral. It came with a police escort, ambulance, hearse, pallbearers and a student dressed like Walton player lying in a casket.

There likely won’t be a repeat of that this Friday at Raider Valley, when Walton and Lassiter play for a spot in the state championship game.

Wood and Jones both left their respective posts after the 1986 season, but both are happy to see their former teams threatening to claim state a state championship — the county’s first since Marietta’s title of 1967.

“Some of my fondest memories are from my days at Lassiter and in Cobb County,” Wood said. “It’s great to see them back because it’s been a long time (since Cobb played for or won a state title).”

Wood’s fondest memory came against Walton, too. In 1984, its first season playing region schedule, Lassiter upset the Raiders 25-22.

It’s a task the current Trojans wouldn’t mind repeating Friday.
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