Trevor Lawrence was an inch away from throwing for six touchdowns in the first half, but had to settle for four and 272 yards in 24 minutes as Cartersville coasted to a 48-21 win over Pickens Friday at Weinman Stadium in the first round of the Georgia Class 4A state playoffs.
“The goal this week was to be one of 16 [teams left], and we’ve accomplished that,” Cartersville head coach Joey King said. “Now our new goal is to be one of eight.”
E.J. Turner had four catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and was this close to making it four touchdowns on four catches, after he was ruled down at the 1 on one play and fumbled right at the goal line on another.
Rico Frye ran in from the 1 a play after the first, and Kaleb Chatmon recovered Turner’s fumble in the end zone, meaning that the plays didn’t hurt the Canes, although that didn’t assuage Turner.
“I really scored on both of those touchdowns, but it’s whatever the refs say,” Turner said. “We’re working hard and we’re still trying to get a three-peat.”
The Canes were up 42-0 at the half, thanks to Lawrence leading six touchdown drives on six possessions, and removed their starters as the game went to a running clock in the second half.
Pickens didn’t fold in the second half, but could do nothing to keep Cartersville from its 41st win in a row and a berth in the second round.
Waiting next week will be a tough second-round matchup with Blessed Trinity, No. 6 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution composite rankings, which routed Oconee County 35-0 on Friday.
“Those guys over there do a really good job,” King said. “They’re very well-coached, play a hard-nosed, physical brand of football with some talented kids on their team, too.”
On Friday at Weinman, the Canes came out throwing.
The Dragons started out the game by bracketing Turner, opening up the field for Cartersville’s other receivers.
T.J. Horton had a 40-yard catch and a 17-yard touchdown grab on the Canes’ first drive, and Jackson Lowe was wide open after play-action for a 41-yard score on their second.
Cartersville ran the ball just once, on a 14-yard Lawrence scramble, while scoring on its first three drives. Turner finished the third drive with his first catch, a 3-yard score, to make it 21-0.
The Canes’ first designed run didn’t come until their fourth drive, when Frye ripped off a 20-yard gain with 9:54 left in the second quarter.
“Going into it, we didn’t know exactly how they were going to line up and play some of the things,” King said. “They ended up going two-high, kind of a split middle look, and we just took advantage of what they gave us. We threw and caught the ball well.”
Paulding had picked up three first downs on an 11-play drive to open the game, but stalled out on the Cartersville 49 and the Canes’ defense got better from there, allowing just two combined first downs on the Dragons’ next five drives.
Meanwhile, the Cartersville offense just kept marching.
Turner caught a short throw, made several would-be tacklers miss and sprinted down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain before being pushed out of bounds at the 1, and Frye finished the drive for a 28-0 lead.
One possession later, after a bad punt gave them great field position, the Canes converted a third-and-11 from the Pickens 24 with a throw to Turner.
The senior took the ball all the way down to the 1 and appeared to stretch it over the goal line before losing possession.
Luckily, Chatmon was there to pounce on the loose ball and secure the touchdown for Cartersville anyway.
That made it 35-0, and Turner capped his night on the next drive, catching a short pass and just outsprinting several Pickens defenders, erasing everyone’s angle on his way to a 50-yard score.
Lawrence finished the half 10-for-13 for 272 yards and four touchdowns. Horton was just as dangerous as Turner, catching four passes for 83 yards and one score, and Frye, despite carrying the ball just five times, had 42 yards and a score on those touches and added one catch for 34 yards.
“We knew we were going to have a hard time stopping them, and we knew we were going to have a hard time moving the ball,” Pickens coach Chris Parker admitted. “We’ve got a ton of respect for [Cartersville]. ... When they’ve got the quarterback they’ve got back there, there’s really no good plays on defense. You’ve got to try to take something away and hope that you can win with what you’re giving them.”
JaCorey Johns and Isaiah Chaney each had sacks for the Cartersville defense, and Darian Poellnitz had two tackles for loss.
The second half was a little more inconsistent for the Canes with backups in.
Pickens got on the board not even two minutes into the third quarter on a weird play when Cartersville botched a handoff.
Quarterback Tee Webb couldn’t fall back on the ball, and Pickens scooped and looked to be heading for a score until Amari Orr came from behind to knock the ball free again.
Unfortunately for Cartersville, it kept bouncing towards the Canes’ end zone, and another Pickens player recovered and took it the rest of the way for the touchdown.
“I thought our 2s did a decent job,” King said. “And [Pickens] still had their first-string in, it was the last game for their seniors and that’s what they’re supposed to do in that situation.”
The second-stringers got that touchdown back on a highlight play by Marcus Gary, who reached behind him to one-hand catch a screen pass and then slalomed through defenders for a 19-yard score, although the point-after was missed.
That made it 48-7.
Pickens, with its starters still in, would add two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the clock ran down.
That made the final 48-21, which was Cartersville’s third-lowest margin of victory this season.
But the Canes were never really in trouble, and now can turn their sights towards Blessed Trinity.