Lassiter was 5-0 and ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAAAA two weeks ago but found itself in an uncomfortable spot - tied for last place in Region 4-AAAAAAA - after losing to Roswell and Woodstock in its first two region games.
Now the Trojans are headed back in the right direction after beating visiting Walton 13-7 in a game dominated by the defenses Friday in Marietta.
The victory left Lassiter in fourth place in the six-team region. The top four will qualify for the playoffs.
“[We needed this] really bad,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “It puts us back on track. If we can get a win or two, we have a chance to get in the playoffs, and once you get in anything can happen.”
Most of the scoring came in the final five minutes of the second quarter, when Lassiter (6-2, 1-2) took a 10-7 lead that the Trojans made hold up. Lassiter got the game’s only points in the second half on a 30-yard field goal by Carsten Link with 1:10 to play in the third quarter.
Walton had just three possessions in the second half and never got closer than the Lassiter 39-yard line. After Walton’s third drive of the half, Lassiter got the ball at its 21 and ran the final 6:03 off the clock.
Lassiter finished with 265 yards of total offense, and quarterback Bradley Riopelle accounted for 243 of that. He was 11-for-15 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries. The Trojans managed just 81 yards rushing on 38 carries.
Walton (3-5, 0-3), which was without starting quarterback Addison Shoup after he suffered a shoulder injury in a loss to top-ranked Roswell last week, finished with 172 yards of offense. Quarterback Austin Kirksey was 7-for-13 passing for 79 yards, and Jaelin Bumper rushed for 49 yards on 13 carries.
Lassiter’s Tariq Hardimon returned an interception 32 yards to set up the game’s first points, a 25-yard field goal by Link with 4:11 to play in the half. Mason Waters appeared to score a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play from the 7, but a penalty on the Trojans forced them to settle for the field goal.
Walton answered with a five-play, 67-yard drive to take the lead on a 7-yard touchdown run by Stephan Jean-Francois. Kirksey’s 43-yard pass to John-Henry Davis set up the Raiders at the Lassiter 12.
However, Lassiter got the lead right back on the first play following the kickoff when Riopelle hit Dawson Brown for a 68-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-7 with 1:52 to play in the half.
“We know each other very well,” Irwin said. “I’ve known [Walton coach Mo] DIxon for 20-plus years, so there’s no secrets between us. I think that’s what you got tonight, is two defenses that really knew the other offenses.”
Walton - 0-7-0-0 - 7
Lassiter - 0-10-3-0 - 13
L - Carsten Link 25 field goal
W - Stephan Jean-Francois 7 run (Johnny Randall kick)
L - Dawson Brown 68 pass from Bradley Riopelle (Ethan Laudato kick)
L - Link 30 field goal