PAINT THE STATE PURPLE — Since the GHSA expanded to six classifications in 2012 — before expanding it to seven in 2017 — Cartersville has won 22 playoff games, two state championships, and has not had a single first-round playoff exit in that span.
The only other programs in the state with as many playoff wins as Cartersville over that seven-year stretch are Buford, Calhoun, Colquitt County and Eagle's Landing Christian. As a result, the recent success has put the Canes in a lofty category of the state's elite high school football programs.
The mark of a powerhouse program is sustained success despite different players coming and going. Detractors to the strength of the Cartersville program can no longer say its success is a flash in the pan. Generational talent Trevor Lawrence is gone, and so are 19 other starters from last year's team.
While the 2018 Canes are continuing the strong tradition, this team has created its own identity. The players have embraced the underdog mentality and made a concerted effort to prove wrong those who said the program was due for a downturn.
However, even while the contributors are different and the identity of the team isn't the same, in some ways, this year's Cartersville squad embodies the level the Canes' program has ascended to in recent years more than any of the other teams. The roster has completely turned over since the 2016 state championship, and yet the Canes are right back playing a 15th game in downtown Atlanta.
PLAYOFF BRACKET UPDATE — Entering the week, there were four Northwest Georgia teams in close proximity to each other with perfect 13-0 records and spots in the GHSA state semifinals.
There was a small chance that the region could produce four undefeated champions, as the quartet of schools were based in different classifications.
However, two of the programs suffered upset losses in Friday’s Final Four, leaving two survivors with a chance to bring state titles back to the area.
Cartersville overcame a stingy Marist defense to gut out a 17-14 win. It sets up a Class 4A championship game against Blessed Trinity, which defeated Troup County by a 51-35 score.
In Class 2A, Rockmart defeated Callaway, 28-22, to meet Heard County, which outlasted Fitzgerald by a 38-30 margin.
The upsets occurred for the two Northwest Georgia teams looking to repeat as state champions.
Calhoun lost out on a chance for a second consecutive Class 3A championship, falling to Peach County in a rematch of last year’s controversial title game. Peach County will face Cedar Grove in the championship tilt.
In Class 5A, Rome missed out on an opportunity for a rare third straight state title after falling to Warner Robins on the road. Next up for Warner Robins will be Bainbridge.
In the other championship games, Milton will face Colquitt County in Class 7A; Northside, Warner Robins will oppose Lee County in Class 6A; Irwin County and Clinch County will meet in Class A Public; and Athens Academy will come up against Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in Class A Private.