However, Cartersville reminded everyone Friday night why the Purple Hurricanes are the best team in Bartow County as they dominated the second half en route to a 42-7 victory in their home opener over the Colonels.
“I’m proud of our kids. They played well, they played hard, they played fast and they got the win,” Barden said. “They got this win Monday through Thursday. They worked hard in practice.”
Cass managed to stay in the game throughout the first half despite being outgained 280 to 59 in the first two quarters. Two fumbles, six penalties and two missed field goals by Cartersville were partly responsible.
“We had some opportunities in the first half that we didn’t capitalize on,” Barden said. “When you have those opportunities, you feel like you need to score because Cass is a good football team.”
The Colonels do deserve some credit as head coach Rick Casko’s team managed to keep Cartersville out of the end zone for most of the first half with the exception of one big play at the end of the first quarter.
“We played extremely well in the first half,” Casko said. “Our defense went in there and played tough the whole game.”
The lone score in the first half belonged to Kalin Heath who raced 40 yards untouched on just a three-play drive. T.L. Ford made a 36-yard catch on the play prior to the score, digging Cartersville out of a second-and-31 hole. Ford had four catches for 84 yards in the half.
The second half saw more of Cartersville’s explosive offense and the Canes did not waste any time.
Heath scored just over two minutes into the half on a 17-yard run.
“It was just adrenaline tonight,” Heath said of his touchdown runs. “My adrenaline kicked in, I saw daylight, and I just took off. I got my beast on and everything”
Cartersville then scored exactly a minute and a half later after forcing Cass into a three-and-out.
Mark Quattlebaum returned the ensuing punt 38 yards to Cass’ 2-yard-line to set up a score and received some excellent open field blocking in the process.
“There were a bunch of big blocks on that play and all game,” Barden said.
Quattlebaum filled the stat-sheet Friday night. The senior, a UNC-Charlotte commit, had an interception on the defensive side. On special teams he had a 43-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for 60 yards. Offensively, he had four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Quattlebaum and his teammates’ speed overwhelmed Cass in the half. The Canes were able to take advantage of several big plays, including a 13-yard completion from Brooks Barden to Brandon Long to make the score 28-0 not even seven minutes into the third quarter.
“Cartersville is a very talented and fast team,” Casko said. “We know they are a very good football team and that, team speed-wise, we weren’t going to be able to stay with them.”
The Colonels did have a very bright moment in the fourth quarter, however. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lowe connected with Jordan Cothran down the right sideline for an 86-yard touchdown play.
Cass’ momentum was short-lived as Brooks Barden felt pressure and dumped it off to Quattlebaum to make the score 35-7.
A fumbled snap on the Colonels’ next possession was picked up by Jesse House who ran it back 15 yards for the defensive touchdown. The play occurred with a little under five minutes left in the game and ended the scoring.
“We did some things well running and throwing the ball. Our defense played awfully well,” Barden said. “We’re just trying to get better each week, and hopefully, we’ll get better by the end of this football season.”
Not only was the margin of victory exciting for Canes fans, but the fact that it was a rivalry game made it all the more enjoyable for Cartersville.
“There was a lot of emotion. There was definitely extra motivation,” Heath said of the rivalry game. “We had a pep rally and I was just in the corner tearing, but everybody else was getting amped up.”
There was a moment at the end of the first half where there was pushing and shoving, but for the most part, it was a hard-fought, physical football game throughout.
Heath finished with four carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He added two catches for 10 yards from his quarterback, Barden.
Barden went 13-of-30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns passing. He also ran the ball seven times for 73 yards.
Long was the leading rusher in the game with 13 carries for 104 yards.
Cass’ main weapon was Cothran, who had three catches for 117 yards.
Cartersville is now 2-0 and will go back on the road to face Rockmart next week, while Cass will play at Heritage, Catoosa and now has a 1-1 record.