All Davis and his defensive teammates had to do was look at the game’s statistics Saturday morning.
Even though the Canes won their first round, Class AAA state playoff game, 56-21, the Panthers amassed 30 first downs and nearly 400 yards of total offense.
Missing from the stat sheet was Jackson County’s failure to convert on its first-and-goal opportunities.
“It was disappointing the way we [the defense] played,” said Davis, a senior defensive lineman who searched for a drink of water while dressed in full gear. “We didn’t do well stopping their running game. It wasn’t like we were surprised by anything they [the Panthers] did on offense. It’s just that we didn’t execute.”
Davis’ blunt assessment of Cartersville’s defensive performance came three days before the Canes host the Blessed Trinity Titans (9-2) in second round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The Titans, the No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAA, advanced to the second round with their 35-14 win over White County. Of their nine victories, one was a 59-12 win over Towers. Another was a 38-6 victory over McNair. It is a team that is averaging 27 points per game on offense.
“What we learned (against Jackson County) is that it takes more than heart to win a state playoff game,” said senior D’Andre Cochran, who is also a starting defensive lineman. “We need to take our game to the next level. Nor can we afford to relax on defense, no matter what the score is.”
The Panthers’ offense exposed cracks in Cartersville’s defense with their short, passing attack and runs up the middle despite trailing 28-0 early in the second quarter. Their three touchdowns came on short runs against a Canes’ defense that was yielding just 12 points per game heading into the state playoffs.
“We know now that each game is going to get harder and harder [to win] the farther we advance in the playoffs,” said Greg Davis, a sophomore running back who also plays defensive end.
All three defensive linemen concurred that the Titans will be “coming to play” with the firm belief that they will end Cartersville’s season Friday night at Weinman Stadium.
With a win over Blessed Trinity, the Canes will face the Thomson/Johnson-Savannah winner.