Three Cartersville rec football teams went to Savannah for GRPA championship games, and two — the 12U team and the 10U team, came home winners. The 8U team ran into a good Savannah team, and was unable to come back with a win.
Head coach Josh McWhorter’s brother and nephew stepped into a Walmart in Savannah before McWhorter’s team was set to play the hometown team. An inqusitive mind saw his nephew’s Canes sweatshirt, and upon learning that Cartersville was set to play Savannah, remarked, “The Stars? They never lose.”
That might have been prophetic on another day, but it wasn’t Saturday.
On a day when McWhorter said “everything went [our] way,” the 10U team won 31-6 with two turnovers returned for scores.
Both of those touchdowns were scored by JaCaiden Leonard, a 60-yard fumble recovery, and a 75-yard interception return. Leonard also had a rushing touchdown from 13 yards out.
Elsewhere on defense, Landen Heath was “by far the best player on the field,” according to McWhorter.
“He probably had 15 tackles,” McWhorter said.
Cartersville’s other scoring came in the first half, twice on Brodie McWhorter touchdown passes. He found Jabari Nunnally for 50 yards, and Jakeveon Porter for 60 yards.
When it came time to prep for this game, Cartersville did not mess around. The coaches scouted Savannah in the leadup, and employed combo coverages in the secondary.
It was a win in which no one area of the team was dominant over another, a testament to its balance and talent all around.
“It’s funny,” McWhorter said. “I don’t think I’ve still taken it in, that we did what we did. It was so much fun to see [the kids] celebrate at the end. I’m really excited for their future.”
Head coach Adam Williams wouldn’t blame you if you mistook his players for kids much older.
“We left it up to [the players] and they handled it like professionals basically,” Williams said. “We brought a championship back to Cartersville.”
That championship, the first for the 12U team since 2010, came in a 16-8 victory. It was by far the hardest-fought game this team has had this season.
“It was a dogfight from opening kickoff until the clock read zero,” Williams said. “This game was the first time that we had really seen somebody that could swing back at us.”
Williams’ defense proved stout again, and did not allow an offensive touchdown. Savannah’s only score came on a punt return touchdown.
As for Cartersville, Christian Vera had a 47-yard run early on in the game, and in the fourth quarter, Khristian Lando had his own rushing touchdown after scoring three in the semifinal game against Dalton.
It’s a win that comes with a tinge of sadness, as the 12-year-olds on the team will move up to the middle school level, and the 12U team will rebuild.
“We took a couple punches in the mouth, but [the kids] kept swinging,” Williams said. “That just shows the resiliency of this group of kids that we have. It was a great group and they came out on top like they were supposed to.”