It was Palindrome-esque Friday night in the first round of the state playoffs for Bartow County football.
In one game, the local team, ranked No. 1 in its classification (Cartersville), cruised past a 4-seed (Pickens). In the other matchup, the No. 1 team in its classification (Cedar Grove), moved past the local No. 4-seed (Adairsville).
Either way, one Bartow County team remains in the playoffs heading into Round 2. That team’s Cartersville after a 48-21 win in which the Canes scored on each first-half possession and held Pickens without points in the first half before the JV came in for the second.
Cartersville has now won 41 in a row and will look for a much tougher test in Round 2 against a top 10-ranked Blessed Trinity squad that may present as tough of a challenge as any opponent in Class 4A.
For Adairsville, there is nothing to be ashamed about, as the Tigers hung close with the favorite to win a second-consecutive state title through the first half.
The Tigers finish the year 6-5, and returned to the state playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Trevor Lawrence — Cartersville (11)
With all of Deshaun Watson’s career records in the rearview mirror, there was nothing spectacular about Lawrence’s game Friday night besides his usual remarkable efficiency.
He completed 10-of-13 passes, and two incompletions were right on target. The other was a deep pass down the sideline, but the Clemson commit was on time and accurate on nearly every dropback in the game.
He finished with 272 yards passing, an average of nearly 21 yards per pass attempt. He also threw for four touchdowns, and probably should have had six if a couple of 50-50 calls gone his way at the 1-yard line.
For the season, Lawrence is 161-for-227 (71 percent), for 3,142 yards (19.5 yards per completion), with 40 touchdowns and one interception. He is 16 touchdown passes off the single-season record in Georgia, set by K’Hari Lane last year.
Travon Branch — Adairsville (3)
Playing in the final game of his career, Branch showed off his signature speed in limited touches. He had three receptions for 71 yards and added seven rushing yards.
He made the biggest play of the game when he found some room with quarterback Mason Boswell under pressure, caught the pass, broke a shoe-string tackle, and outran the Cedar Grove defense to the goal line for the Tigers’ lone touchdown.
E.J. Turner — Cartersville (5)
Turner was the subject of the Pickens defense’s focus early on, but eventually found room later in the game. He made the Dragons pay, often using his quickness and elusiveness to gain big yardage after the catch. He finished with four receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He was within a yard of more scores on two plays in which he was ruled down at the 1 on one play and fumbled right at the goal line on another.
For the season, Turner is up to 694 yards and 10 touchdowns on 31 receptions.
T.J. Horton — Cartersville (3)
Horton remains Cartersville’s top receiver on the year, and his big season continued Friday.
He made two big plays on Cartersville’s opening drive of 40 and 17 yards, taking quick passes and running for big gains on each occasion.
He finished with four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and is now up to 51 receptions and 703 yards with nine touchdowns on the year.
Rico Frye — Cartersville (11)
After one of his best games with the Canes in the region championship, Frye did not see as many touches Friday. He still was prolific when he did get the ball, though, rushing five times for 42 yards and adding one reception for 34 yards on one of Cartersville’s patented screen plays.
Frye has now rushed for 979 yards on 109 carries, an average of nearly nine yards per carry. It is all but certain he will record his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season in his high school career.