Critics quieted: Lee County 31, Northside, Columbus 14

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- There's a bit of a theme developing for the Lee County football team these days.

Trojans jump out to an early lead.

Quarterback Justin Walker throws for a bunch of touchdowns.

Trojans score more than 30 points.

Trojans win.

Walker threw for 287 yards and four more touchdowns to lead the Trojans (4-0, 1-0 Region 1-AAAA) to a 31-14 victory against Northside, Columbus on Friday night in the first region game for both schools.

"It was a big game," Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio said. "This game and then the next six games after this are big games. We play in the toughest region in the state, and it's good to get started (with a victory)."

The Trojans started the scoring with a 35-yard pass by Walker to T.J. Thomas and a 2-point conversion rush by Denzel Eckles to go up 8-0 only a few minutes into the game.

Northside running back Michael Faggett scored next on a 39-yard run to make it 8-7 with a minute left in the first.

"He did some good things," Northside head coach Paul Cate said of Faggett, who finished with 138 of the Patriots' 178 yards on offense. "Our play was just a little spotty."

One of Lee County's top receivers, James Terrell, limped off the field early in the second -- he didn't return -- but the Trojans didn't miss a beat, scoring on a 20-yard field goal by Mike Bacon and another pass by Walker, this time 6 yards to Eckles with less than a minute left in the half, making it 17-7 Lee County.

"I believe a lot of people doubted we could actually run the ball," said Eckles, who finished with 169 yards of total offense (122 rushing, 47 receiving). "We showed (Friday) that we can compete with the region (in different ways)."

After a scoreless third quarter, the Trojans put the game away in the fourth, as Walker passed for two more touchdowns. The first was a 5-yarder to Thomas -- who finished with 58 receiving yards and two TDs -- while the second was a 26-yard pass to Josh Cabrera on a fourth-and-16, set up by a blocked punt by Vernorris Hayes.

"We just came out and did what we had to do and executed everything," said Walker, who completed 26 of 38 passes, despite throwing his first two interceptions of the season. "(The) defense stepped up many times."

Pat Smith ran the ball in from 10 yards for Northside (3-1, 0-1) with 4:06 left in the game to complete the scoring.

Lee County plays Houston County (4-0) next week, while Northside heads over to Thomas County Central (3-1).

"We have another tough region game next week," Fabrizio said. "We just have to continue to try to improve."

If the theme stays the same, they should be just fine.