For there was no joy in Cartersville, as the Canes’ perfect season came to a crashing end with a 21-10 heartbreaking loss to the Wolves (11-3) Friday night.
Had they won, Cartersville (13-1) would be playing St. Pius for the Class AAA state championship this coming Friday at the Georgia Dome.
“This team played its heart out,” coach Frank Barden said. “That’s part of the business. In the end, there can be only one team that goes home happy. “
Hurt and tears told the story of how the season ended for Cartersville. Of a state playoff game that saw the Canes go up 10-0 before the Wolves intercepted two passes that led to two touchdowns, scored 21 unanswered points and held Cartersville’s offense to just 24 yards in the second half. Of a state playoff run in which all four of its state playoff games were played at sold out Weinman Stadium.
Like most coaches who have had time to rethink what could have been, Barden acknowledged there were a couple of plays he would have liked to have back. Most notably the play he called late in the first half that turned out to be the game’s turning point.
“A loss like this usually lingers for a day or two before you start moving on,” Barden said.
There will no more practices until May. No more games until August.
Only the memories remain of a regular season that saw the Canes go 10-0 and earn the No. 1-seed in Region 5-AAA. Of a state playoff run that began with a victory over Jackson County and ended with the loss to Buford. In between, there was the exciting one-point victory over the Blessed Trinity and the accomplishment of defeating Thomson.
Jackson County, the No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAA, gained nearly 400 yards in offense. Blessed Trinity was a short, field goal try from sending the game into overtime. Thomson was ranked No. 1 in Class AAA before losing to the Canes, 21-13. The Wolves, who lost to Calhoun in the finals of the Class AA championship last season, had won six state championships in Class AA and two more in Class A.
“It was tough bracket that we played in,” Barden said. “But the four extra weeks of playing football, of playing in big games, have given our players invaluable experience that will carry over to next season.”
To read the rest of this story, please purchase a copy of The Daily Tribune News at your nearby news rack or subscribe to the E-edition.