LEESBURG — After their big win over Harris County last week, the Lee County Trojans looked to keep their hopes of hosting a playoff game alive by avoiding a letdown against lowly Northside-Columbus on Friday.
After a bizarre first quarter that included three turnovers in less than two minutes, the Trojans put their foot on the gas, coasting to a 55-0 shutout victory thanks to a 27-point outburst in the second quarter.
“I’m pleased with our performance tonight,” Fabrizio said. “We got to play a lot of kids tonight, which is always good. It’s a lot of fun when everybody gets in.”
The score might not indicate it, but for a moment, this game was a little more stressful than Dean Fabrizio would care for it to be. On their first possession of the game, Dynamite Dozen quarterback Stephen Collier threw an interception near midfield. Thankfully, the Patriots weren’t able to get any points out of it. After the ensuing punt, however, Trojans tailback Willie Kelly fumbled near midfield.
As soon as it seemed that the Patriots were building some momentum, quarterback Jonathan Karastury was intercepted by Trojan defensive back Da’Quan Jamison. A few plays later, Jamal Gardner plunged in from three yards out to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead with 6:17 left in the first quarter. From then on, it was all Lee County. The next time Gardner got the ball, he sliced his way through Northside’s defense en route to an 18-yard touchdown.
“We just had to study them on film and see what they were about,” Gardner said afterwards. “We knew the stunts they were going to run. We came prepared for it.”
With the Patriots only down two scores, there was still hope for the visitors. To their chagrin, junior defensive lineman Demetrius Kennedy planned on closing the door for good. He hustled into the Northside backfield untouched and literally stole the ball from Karastury, returning the fumble 19 yards to put the Trojans up 20-0 in the second quarter.
If you could single out one player who sparked the Trojans’ rally, it was Da’Quan Jamison. The senior picked off three passes, racking up roughly 90 yards in return yardage alone. While the score was lopsided, the running game and defense paved the way for every score.
“We expect ‘Quan to play like that,” Fabrizio said. “He’s a senior, he was an All-Region player as a junior. We expect him to step up and make big plays, and three interceptions in a half is just a great performance.”
Jamison was just one part of the defense, which held Northside out of the endzone all night, their second shutout of the season.
“I just got my mind right before the game,” Jamison said. “I came ready to play. I studied film all week and stayed humble. It’s all due to God. I love [playing defensive back], I try to keep it smooth as possible. We got another goose-egg tonight, so we’re on the come-up. Our defense is underrated.”
Lee scored points off each of Northside’s four turnovers, while the Patriots didn’t score off either of the three turnovers they forced.
“We’re going to do like we do every week,” Fabrizio said. “We’ve got to look at the film, see what corrections we’ve got to make, and try to get better every week. We’ve got Bainbridge coming up, and if we want to host a playoff game, we’ve got to win that one.”
J.Q. Quimbley hauled in a 47-yard touchdown catch. Stephen Collier added three total touchdowns, two coming on runs of three and 44 yards in just over three quarters of action. Giavonte Daniels and Marquiz Williams added rushing touchdowns in mop-up duty. Jamal Gardner finished with 71 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Collier led the team with five carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
“We try to do what’s working,” Fabrizio said of his team’s dominant ground game. “We’ve tried to be balanced as an offense this year. We feel like we’ve gotten better running the ball this year, and it’s something we’ve really worked on.”
With Senior Night and the playoffs approaching. Jamison and the Trojans have tunnel vision.
“It’s the same as we’ve been thinking all year,” Jamison said, in regards to the season finale. “Motivation and preparation, that’s been our motto all year.”
Gardner was more straightforward in his approach to the rest of the season.
“We’ve got to keep our intensity up,” Gardner said of the upcoming week of practice. “We’re going to come out busting like we usually do. Bainbridge better be ready for it.”
The Trojans moved to 8-1 on the season, and 3-1 within the region. The Patriots fell to 0-4 within the region, and 1-7 overall. The Trojans will close out the season with Bainbridge coming to town next week, while Northside-Columbus will finish the season hosting Hardaway.