Slemp, who usually wears 16, honored Maina Kariuki -- whose season ended with his injury a week ago -- by wearing Kariuki's No. 6 jersey against Pickens County, and the kicker's 11 points helped the Canes overcome two turnovers on their way to a 30-0 victory.
The Canes' play-in game next Friday at Weinman Stadium will pit them against Dalton, the No. 2 seed in Region 7A-AAA whose top seeding collapsed last week after it forfeited four games -- Gilmer, Ridgeland, Murray County and Heritage-Catoosa -- when the GHSA ruled senior Catamount linebacker Corey Smith did not make a "bona fide" move to the school district from Southeast Whitfield High School.
Head coach Frank Barden said the victory showed a lot of desire on the part of the Canes, especially its seniors and special teams.
"It's always good to be back home," Barden said. "It was Senior Night and our seniors got to get in and do some good things. We're awful proud of them and happy for them and appreciate all they've given to our program."
He also cited the special teams play. "It was great. Preston kicked great even with it being wet, Collin [did a great job] kicking off and punting. We had a blocked punt for a touchdown. It was a good night all around."
The coach said Slemp had a superb performance on a night when he was honoring an injured Cane. "He wore Maina's number. Maina ... had the injury last weekend in Cedartown. We found out he's not going to be able to play anymore and [Preston] wanted to wear Maina's number."
Barden said he isn't sure through how many games the tribute will continue. "He [Preston] might keep it if he plays the way he played tonight."
The Canes -- who totaled 258 yards on the night, 240 via rushing -- lit the scoreboard the first three times they touched the ball on Friday night, those scores coming with a big boost from the Cartersville defense and special teams play.
The Canes' first possession started at the Pickens County 42 after they held the Dragons to a three-and-out and hurried their punter into a pooch kick that traveled a mere 21 yards.
Kalin Heath, seven rushes for 105 yards on the night, followed the exchange with a 6-yard run and Trey Graves rambled to the 24. Tyler Will, 3-of-8 for 18 yards, was sacked back at the 33 the next play, but a pass moved the ball back to the Pickens 29. Two plays later Slemp powered his 46-yard kick through the uprights and the Canes broke on top, 3-0.
The Dragons went three-and-out again the next series and Cartersville's Josh Cooper blocked the Pickens' punt and teammate Arrick Camps cradled it at about the 3-yard line and was accompanied by a wave of purple into the end zone. After Slemp made the point after, the Canes were up 10-0.
Pickens tried to respond the next series and came up just inches shy of a first down in three plays. That brought out the gambling mood in the Dragons but it blew up in their face when the Canes' interior line exploded with the snap and took down quarterback Tanner Brumby short of the first-down marker.
The Canes tried to add a second touchdown to their collection but a 10-yard holding call stalled their drive and Slemp lit up the Weinman Stadium scoreboard with a 45-yard field goal to give the Canes' a 13-0 lead.
Cartersville's final score of the half came the old-fashioned way -- after a long drive, this one starting at the Cane 26 after a Pickens' punt.
Will, who was the team's leading rusher in the first half with 49 yards on seven carries, started the drive off with a 19-yard carry. His second carry of 14 yards was sandwiched around a 10-yard holding penalty against the Canes. A four-yard carry by Will and a three-yard pickup by Kalin Heath helped overcome the penalty to move the chains for the Canes. Will then moved the ball to the Pickens 29 with a 15-yard carry, where he hit Hayes Linn for an 11-yard pickup. Four plays later Slemp added his final field goal of the night, a 27-yarder that gave the Canes a 16-0 lead.
The Canes' scoring in the second half was a different story altogether as Linn fielded the Pickens' kickoff in the end zone and advanced to the Cartersville 26 before he was tackled.
A 10-yard holding penalty negated what would have been a 22-yard pickup by Will, and the Canes found themselves facing a first-and-17 when Heath ran around the left side, broke through the gap and left an 81-yard trail of frustrated Dragons behind just seconds into the third quarter to let the Canes take a 23-0 lead.
Two of the Canes' next three drives were marred by turnovers, but Cartersville got back on track the next series by putting together a six-play drive that started at its 20 and picked up steam immediately when Marcus Jones sped around a host of Dragons on his way to a 61-yard pickup. Five plays later Brooks Barden capped the effort with a one-yard touchdown.
Pickens then responded with an 11-play drive that stalled at the Cartersville 9-yard line.
The Canes came back with their own 11-play drive that chewed up the final minutes of the game and penetrated to the four before Cartersville ended the game with two victory formations that moved them back to the 14.
Coach Barden said the success of quarterbacks Will and Brooks Barden -- who entered the game the second drive of the second half and got 21 yards on six carries -- followed an emphasis on that part of the Cane rushing attack. Both helped move the chains and siphon off attention from other running backs.
"It's something we work on," he said. "It's something we're going to have to do."
Cartersville's seniors got a lot of playing time, as did a lot of backup players.
"We've got some kids that have rolled, and it's good to get them in," coach Barden said. "It's all about getting good, quality reps for us. They got some good reps tonight."
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 F
CANES 13 3 7 7 30
PICKENS 0 0 0 0 0
CANES: Preston Slemp 46-yd field goal 8:03
CANES: Arrick Camps 3-yd blocked punt return (Slemp kick) 6:16
CANES: Slemp 45-yd field goal 3:07
CANES: Slemp 27-yd field goal
CANES: Kalin Heath 81-yd run (Slemp kick) 11:06
CANES: Barden 1-yd run (Slemp kick) 10:26
First downs 11 7
Rushes-yds 36/240 31/101
Passing yds 18 46
Comp-Att-Int 3/8 3/19
Total yds 258 147
Penalties 6/45 0
Fumbles-lost 2 0
Punts-yds 3/116 8/248
Rushing -- Canes: Marcus Jones 11/140, Kalin Heath 7/105, Tyler Will 7/49, Brooks Barden 6/21, Randy Long 4/13, Trey Graves 1/12
Pickens: Tate Rizoti 14/79, Tanner Brumby 9/-13, Kalyn Brooks 8/35
Passing -- Canes: Will 3-8-18; Pickens: Brumby 3/19
Receiving -- Canes: Heath 1-4, Gordon Gray 1-3; Pickens: David Culbreth 1/14, Titus Henderson 1/12