Canes add NFL MVP’s alma mater to ‘ridiculous’ schedule

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2016 football schedules will not be officially set until March, but teams already have their schedules lined up.

For Cartersville fans, the schedule next season should provide for plenty of exciting football games early in the nonregion schedule.

A scrimmage against last season’s Class 3A state champ Westminster has already been released, as has nonregion regular season games against Allatoona, Calhoun and Hapeville Charter.

Most recently, Cartersville added another powerhouse to the list of nonregion games as Westlake — the alma mater of nine NFL Players in the last 15 years, including Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — will come to Weinman Stadium Sept. 9.

“Westlake was the last one that solidified the deal. I was talking to schools in Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Florida. I actually talked to a school in Kentucky and a school in California, just trying to find games,” Cartersville head coach Joey King said of adding Westlake to the schedule. “It wasn’t easy to come by. So when it came down to it, it was either going to be Buford, Colquitt, Roswell or Westlake. I got a message from Westlake maybe two Fridays ago. By no means are they the weakest of the bunch, but it’s going to be competitive, and that was kind of the direction we went.”

King found scheduling games for next season difficult after the Canes rolled through the season to a state championship in 2015.

“In the nonregion schedule, ideally, I would have liked to have two tough ones and two easier ones, but when you win the state championship and you shut out Buford, and you still have Trevor [Lawrence] coming back, that’s the first thing that people see when they look on paper,” King said. “They see this team went 15-0, they shut out Buford, who’s nationally ranked, and they have the No. 1 player in the country coming back — it’s not easy to get games. So we’re playing some state champions, some teams that have won state championships like Calhoun.”

The Canes will open up with defending Class 3A state champ Westminster in a scrimmage Aug. 12 at Weinman.

“The scrimmage game, you want it to be competitive. [Westminster head coach Gerry Romberg] and I talked and neither one of us really cares about the outcome of that deal as long as we get some good quality reps and keep the kids healthy,” King said of the scrimmage. “We’re not trying to run up the score on one another or beat each other up too bad, but just to create that competitive environment with two respected teams, that’s kind of the goal of the scrimmage. So I’m looking forward to that.”

On Aug. 19 and Sept. 2, with a bye week in between, the Canes will renew old rivalries with Allatoona and Calhoun. The Allatoona game is at home while Calhoun will be on the road. The Canes lost two games by a combined 15 points to Allatoona when the two were in the same region in 2010 and 2011. Allatoona is coming off winning the Class 5A state championship.

Against Calhoun, Cartersville holds a 27-6-1 all-time record against the Yellow Jackets, but has lost three out of four since 1989. The rivalry dates back to 1926. Calhoun has won two state titles — in 2011 and 2014 — since the two teams last met. Calhoun reached the state semifinals last season.

The next week is a home game against Class 7A Westlake. Westlake went 10-3 last year to reach the Class 6A state quarterfinals, losing to Grayson by a touchdown. Along with Cam Newton, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft and three-time national champion offensive lineman while at Alabama, Chance Warmack, is an alum. Former NFL all-pro and current Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones also is an alum.

“Coach [Bryan] Love has done a great job with their program. Even though they were athletically superior over the past couple of years, they didn’t quite put in the wins,” King said of Westlake. “But he was the defensive coordinator at Camden County. He’s gone in there and done a really good job instilling discipline in those guys and work ethic. You look at their schedule the past couple of years, they’ve really gotten better, and they’ve been playing lights out on defense. They beat Peachtree Ridge last year [28-9 in the second round of the state playoffs]. They held Grayson to a really small score, so they’ve been doing a really good job under coach Love.”

On Sept. 16, Cartersville will host Hapeville Charter. Cartersville bought Hapeville Charter out, so the Canes will host the games in 2016 and in 2017. Hapeville Charter went 6-4 last season and did not make the Class 2A state playoffs, but only lost by a score of 17-16 on the road at eventual Class 2A state champ Pace Academy.

“Hapeville, we lucked into that deal,” King said. “We threw against them this summer. They’ve got a talented team. They’re no pushover by any means. They’ve got a bunch of athletes. Their coach does a good job there. They’re still athletically superior to a lot of teams that we played last year.”

Cartersville will then enter region play with games at Cedartown Sept. 23, Central (Carrollton) at home Sept. 30, at home against LaGrange Oct. 7, at Sandy Creek Oct. 14, at Chapel Hill Oct. 21 and at home against Troup County Nov. 4.

“It’s ridiculous,” King said of the 2016 schedule. “I’m excited about the competition, but you just hope and pray you stay healthy through that. The competition will make us better in the grand scheme of things, but we’re playing in a tougher region. I’m praying that we stay healthy.”

2016 Cartersville football schedule

Aug. 12 vs. Westminster (scrimmage)Aug. 19 vs. AllatoonaAug. 26 OPENSept. 2 at CalhounSept. 9 vs. WestlakeSept. 16 vs. Hapeville CharterSept. 23 at CedartownSept. 30 vs. Central (Carrollton)Oct. 7 vs. LaGrangeOct. 14 at Sandy CreekOct. 21 at Chapel HillOct. 28 OPENNov. 4 vs. Troup County