Lee County’s Curtis Williams (9) intercepts a pass near the goal line in the first quarter Saturday at Trojan Field as Westover’s Jysanti Richardson defends. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
LEESBURG — The national television cameras chartered every move.
And they talked consistently about Westover defensive lineman Trent Thompson being the nation’s top recruit.
But by the end of the game, the ESPN cameras had begun to follow the Lee County High School football team.
A near-capacity crowd and national television audience watched the Trojans stun Westover 13-0 in a rare Saturday morning game after officials from both schools announced on Thursday they were moving the game up four hours to combat the excessive heat.
Saturday’s game gave Lee an opportunity to showcase its new artificial stadium turf as well as a new video screen on its scoreboard.
But those things took a back seat to Lee County’s defensive effort. The Trojans hardly let Westover see much of anything positive, stifling the Patriots much like the heat stifled many of the fans in attendance.
Westover (0-1) threatened twice in the first half — the first on fourth-and-22 from the Lee County 23 when quarterback Emory McKenzie’s pass was intercepted at the 1-yard line by Curtis Williams.
Then later with the Patriots lining up for a 19-yard field goal attempt with 9:53 left in the first half, Lee County’s Anthony Tupper stuffed out Westover’s fake, turning the ball over on downs.
“We felt like our defense has been slept on for a while,” Williams said. “We felt like it was a coming out party for us. Our defense got noticed last year and some people started talking about us.”
After Saturday, the Trojans defense should be talked about a lot. At one point, Westover went seven straight three downs and out possessions.
It didn’t help that The Herald No. 1 Patriots were breaking in a new quarterback with McKenzie. But coach Octavia Jones said he was frustrated by his team’s critical mistakes against the Trojans, who were ranked second in the Herald’s Fab 5 Poll but are poised to take over the top spot next week.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes at inopportune times,” Jones said. “I know it was our first game and things are going to be sloppy at times, but I didn’t expect us to make that many mistakes. We’re going to clean this up and be ready to play again in two weeks.”
In fairness to Westover’s defense, expected to be the team’s backbone, its offense and special teams unit put them in a few bad situations.
Following Lee’s stop on the fake field goal, the Trojans marched downfield and took the early lead on the first of two Michael Langston field goals. Langston drilled a 35-yarder at the 6:40 mark to make it 3-0.
Then after Westover shanked a punt on its ensuing possession, Lee scored the game’s only touchdown on a 2-yard burst from running back Jamal Gardner as the Trojans took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
“It was a lot of fun out there (Saturday),” Lee defensive back Chris Melton said. “The first game of the season, first game on turf, everybody was on the same page and we pitched a shutout. We’ve been chasing a goose egg for years.”
The game also marked the debut of Lee quarterback Garet Morrell, who replaced Ohio State signee Stephen Collier. Morrell fired short passes to his wideouts, then hooked up with Tray Eafford on a 42-yard play to set up Langston’s 24-yard field goal with 6:33 left in the third quarter. The Trojans didn’t seem to miss a beat with the junior leading the way.
“Garret is going to be a really good player for us,” Lee coach Dean Frabrizio said. “That was some kind of game to make a debut in — replacing Stephen Collier, making your first start on TV and then you’ve got the No. 1 recruit in the nation lining up against you. That’s a lot to take in. There’s some things he needs to work on, but give Westover’s defense some credit for that.”
The way the Trojans (1-0) were clicking on defense, one had to figure that two scores would be too tough for Westover to overcome in the final quarter.