Cass High proved this Friday night in its 23-14 victory over Adairsville in which the Colonels physically overmatched the Tigers in the trenches.
Adairsville coach Eric Bishop discussed Cass’ size advantage earlier in the week, saying of Cass, “They’re huge.”
Cass coach Rick Casko knows it, too, which is one of the reasons he is so optimistic about his team’s fate this season. Players like Aja Morris, Drake Eddy and Lucas Johnson each are in the area of 6-foot-4, 240 pounds.
It was evident during Friday’s game that Cass was winning the game in the trenches. Bishop mentioned afterwards how his team struggled stopping the Colonel’s penetration into his offensive backfield. Cass stopped Adairsville runners in the backfield on seven different occasions. Even when Adairsville runners got past the line of scrimmage, they did not get much farther. The Tigers had just five plays in the first half in which they gained more than 3 yards.
Senior defensive end Montavius Parker had an excellent game and was constantly in the Adairsville backfield. He had four of Cass’ seven tackles for a loss and had eight total tackles in the game. Casko referred to Parker as a “freak” prior to the season because of his combination of strength and speed.
Morris is also a force at defensive tackle. Morris’ presence made it difficult for senior tailback Tristin Smith to run inside. The Tigers gave Smith eight out of 12 of the carries in the first half. Most of these attempts were handoffs inside the hashmarks where Cass’ strength lies. As a result, Smith was only able to gain 14 yards on his eight carries in the half.
Meanwhile, Cass’ Keelyn Wilkey was able to use his big blockers in front to get to the second level of Adairsville’s defense. Wilkey would often get past the defensive linemen and to the linebackers where he could make one cut and burst into the secondary. Nearly 25 percent of his 21 carries Friday resulted in exactly 7 yard gains, demonstrating where Wilkey was meeting Adairsville’s resistance. It was clearly a few yards farther down the field than where Smith was meeting Cass’ defenders.
However, Bishop made an adjustment at halftime and started to run the ball more to the outside with Sidnee Johnson and Austin Harris. This made a huge difference in the game as the Tigers started moving the ball in the second half and almost mounted a comeback. The Tigers had just 53 yards of offense in the first half and 173 in the second.
Unfortunately for Adairsville, it was too little, too late.
Wildcats still trying to find silver lining
There has not been much for which the Woodland Wildcats have been able to find solace in after the football season’s first few weeks.
Dating to its scrimmage with Cartersville, Woodland has not been able to muster or sustain any offensive momentum, which included a 50-0 shutout at Allatoona Friday night.
At times playing as many as three quarterbacks in a single game, the Wildcats have yet to score a touchdown.
Similarly, Woodland’s struggles have been just as profound elsewhere. The defense, which has played respectably in spurts, has yielded an average of 38 points per game, while the special teams also remains a work in progress following a botched field goal and put in the second half of Friday’s loss.
“There’s nothing really good,” said Wildcat coach Vincent DiLorenzo, searching for a silver lining to his team’s start to the season. “I mean, the good thing is I hope we didn’t get anybody seriously injured.”
DiLorenzo noted that there are not many positives “… when it’s 50-0 and we don’t score any points.”
Senior Mason Robinson, a full-time starter at quarterback for the first time in his career, presided over Woodland’s most successful drive of the night in the second quarter. He moved the team from its own 27-yard line to the Buccaneer 25, picking up first downs with a 25-yard completion to receiver Phelan Philpot and on his 6-yard run to the Allatoona 39.
Facing fourth-and-2, though, the Wildcats committed back-to-back delay of game penalties and Robinson’s pass to Quadre Allen near the goal line was broken up by Bucs defensive back Scott Roembke.
Woodland’s other two scoring chances came in the second half, once following Jermel Lewis’s interception near midfield and again after Philpot recovered a blocked punt. A turnover on downs ensued on one possession, and the other ended with a botched field goal snap that negated Jose Panigua’s 40-yard attempt.
Asked if his starter looked more comfortable in his second outing, DiLorenzo did not see how that could be possible.
“I mean, Mason, how can he feel comfortable when … we’re not making [plays] — there [are] … guys we had open and he doesn’t see ’em and sometimes guys we had open and he doesn’t have time to throw,” the third-year Wildcat coach said. “I think he’s ready to get back to work on Monday and try to get better.”
After a rough two weeks, that will likely be the mission of the entire Woodland program, as the Wildcats look to entertain their fans by reaching paydirt in their home opener Friday against East Paudling. The Region 5-AAAAA contest is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Canes produce another quality kicker
A tradition of excellent kickoffs at Cartersville High appears on sound footing once again.
The Purple Hurricanes kicked off six times Friday night against Darlington, and four times Zach Edwards put the pigskin in the end zone.
Once the Tigers were able to field the ball at their 1-yard line and were downed at the 15-yard line, not all that great a starting point. The other time the Tigers’ started their drive from the 26, their best starting point on the entire evening.
Carterville head coach Frank Barden, no stranger to forcing opponents to start their drives from deep inside their territory, was pleased with the work of Edwards.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “Zack did great. He kicked the ball really well for us [Friday].”
Barden said the team’s entire kicking game contributed to the victory.
“Our punting team did well, our punt protection. Our snapping was good. I’m very pleased with our kicking game.”
Edwards is the latest in a long line of really good Cartersville kickers.
Two years ago, it was Collin Barber who was pinning opponents back deep in their territory. Now Barber is the punter for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Last year the kicking chores were handled by Preston Slemp. He has since moved on to Eastern Kentucky.
Barden gives a lot of credit to coach Kyle Tucker for that success.
“Coach Tucker does a great job,” Barden said Friday night. “He really works them. He drills them. They get better.”
—The Daily Tribune News staffers, Jason Greenberg, Chike Nwakamma and David Royal contributed to this report.