PICK YOUR POISON — Faced with trying to stop all of Cartersville’s weapons on offense, Pickens tried to take at least one away completely to start Friday’s first-round playoff game.
It didn’t exactly work.
“They were bracketing on me, so we had open spaces for T.J. [Horton] and them, so we had great plays,” senior wide receiver E.J. Turner said.
While the coverage did take away Turner to open the game, it really opened open up the field for Cartersville’s other receivers.
Horton had a 40-yard catch on the opening play of the game and followed that up a play later with a 17-yard touchdown.
Cartersville’s next drive featured a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Lowe on which the tight end was so wide open after a play-action fake that no Dragon defender got within five yards of him as he made the catch and rumbled to the end zone.
Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence started the game out 5-for-6 for 145 yards and two touchdowns, at which point Pickens stopped focusing so much on Turner.
That was just an invitation for Turner to go off. He made his first catch, a 3-yard touchdown, with just 27 seconds left in the first quarter, but would go on to finish the half with four catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
KITCHEN SINK — As was probably expected, Pickens pulled out all the stops in a desperate win-or-go-home game in which the Dragons were big underdogs.
Pickens unveiled a number of trick plays, most revolving around sophomore running back C.J. Streicher.
In the second quarter, Streicher took two back-to-back direct snaps in the wildcat formation, losing a total of four yards on the two plays after a bad snap on the second led to Sunni Moorehead flying in for a big tackle for loss.
Pickens was back to its tricks on its next drive, as quarterback Jacob Bromby flung a backwards screen pass to Streicher, who wound up and hurled the ball over everyone’s head, with no Dragons receivers in the area.
“They had some different looks that they hadn’t shown all year offensively,” Cartersville coach Joey King said. “I thought, defensively, we did a good job making adjustments and keeping them out of the end zone with the first group.”
MORAL VICTORIES — It’s cliché, but the scoreboard didn’t tell the full story in Adairsville’s 48-13 loss Friday night.
This was not a traditional beatdown. Adairsville had a thread in this game, and if it recovered an onside kick after the score was 28-10, then this could have been a different ballgame.
This game was more of a case of one team just wearing down the other. Where the Tigers have talent at a position, Cedar Grove has it twofold. It’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the state and are defending state champions.
Whether or not you ascribe to the notion that there is honor in losing, Adairsville has nothing to be ashamed of — it returned to the playoffs after a year off, and gave a great team a really good fight.
WHAT IF — One area in particular that Cedar Grove controlled this game was at the line of scrimmage. Its backs were picking up four or five yards on most carries.
And Adairsville quarterback Mason Boswell was often met in the backfield before he could take off or look downfield.
It’s worth wondering what might’ve happened had Maddox Teems played in this game for the Tigers. Teems spent his Friday on an operating table instead of on the field Friday night, having surgery on a broken leg and an aversion fracture in his ankle.
Teems is the key cog for the Tiger offensive line, and occasionaly plays on the D-line as well, and having someone with his ability slowing down the Saints’ pass rush might’ve been a big help for the flow of the offense.
On defense, Dakota Hughes, who has been lost for a few games with a broken ankle, was also a stabilizing force in the middle of the Adairsville defense, and definitely could have had an impact in slowing down the Cedar Grove rushing attack.
Regardless, Adairsville played an admirable game without those two.
SHOWING UP — Adairsville’s fans traveled really well for this game, braving Atlanta traffic to watch the Tigers play. On any big Tiger play, they were often as loud as Cedar Grove’s fans.
Head coach Eric Bishop praised the turnout postgame.
“We appreciate the following that we get,” Bishop said.
Adairsville and its community were obviously very excited about their team’s return to the playoffs. And judging by the amount of green in the stands Friday night, it showed.
— The Daily Tribune News Staffers Andrew Houghton and Evan Greenberg contributed to this report.