Unfortunately for the Tigers, four turnovers and several Cartersville big plays allowed the Canes to handily win their rivalry game Friday night at Adairsville by a score of 47-7.
“It’s speed, speed, speed,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said of Cartersville. “They have speed on offense, too, and can take it to the house anytime. We couldn’t match them speed-wise.
“When you make a mistake against a team with that much speed, it just gets magnified so much.”
The Canes used their speed to get off to a fast start. They scored three plays into their first offensive drive when junior lineman Collin Sapp recovered a fumble in the end zone two minutes into the game.
After two completions and an impressive run by Marcus Childers, the junior quarterback threw an interception to Cartersville’s Mark Quattlebaum.
“We did a good job on defense. [Adairsville is] one of the playoff teams, so I’m proud of our boys,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “We had big turnovers on defense. I thought our coaches did a great job of putting together a plan.”
Adairsville then did something few teams have been able to do this season. The Tigers’ defense forced Cartersville into a three-and-out and a punt.
“This is the first time where we had a challenge for all four quarters,” Cartersville sophomore linebacker Tyler Reed said.
Reed, who played for Adairsville last season, had 12 tackles in the game.
“It’s good to be back over here at Adairsville,” Reed said. “I had a chip on my shoulder tonight.”
Reed ended Adairsville’s next possession with a sack, giving Cartersville the ball back.
Adairsville then looked like it might force Cartersville into another punt, but on third-and-29, quarterback Brooks Barden dumped the ball off quickly to junior running back Kalin Heath. Heath used his speed to race past Tiger defenders for the 44-yard touchdown.
“There were times when we were as physical as them and we tried to make that compensate for the speed factor, but there were times when we got beat down the field,” Bishop said. “Did I mention how fast they are?”
The lead increased for Cartersville when Childers was hit trying to throw a pass. The ball popped into the air and was subsequently snatched out of the air by another former Adairsville linebacker, senior Jesse House.
Six plays later, the turnover became points for the Canes when Barden connected with senior wideout Gordon Gray for an 18-yard touchdown to make the score 21-0 with 5:31 remaining in the first half.
Cartersville forced Adairsville into a punt two minutes later and retained possession with about 2 1/2 minutes on the clock. The Canes would only need one minute as Barden dropped the ball into Quattlebaum’s hands along the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown pass to give the Canes a 28-0 lead with the three-play drive.
Quattlebaum intercepted another Childers pass just before halftime to send Cartersville into the locker room on a positive note.
“Yeah, it was,” Bishop said when asked if the key to the game were the turnovers. “We tried to do what we could to loosen them up with the run. We tried to get some play action stuff going, but again, it’s speed, speed, speed.”
Cartersville began the second half like it did in the first with a quick scoring drive.
Barden connected with senior wide receiver T.L. Ford 10 yards for the score and it became clear Adairsville would not mount a comeback in the second half.
“The one possession you wish you could have back was their opening drive of the second half,” Bishop said. “Four plays and their lead goes from 28 to 35. You have to come out a lot better than that.”
Barden was not finished racking up passing yards. The senior has gotten little playing time in second halves this season because of the big leads his team has had. He took advantage of the second-half opportunity with his second touchdown to Heath. This time from seven yards out. The play was set up by long completions to senior receivers Gray and Ford.
Barden finished 12-for-20 with 300 yards passing and five touchdowns on the game. Ford had 97 yards receiving on five catches while Gray had three receptions for 66 yards.
“It was a good team effort,” Frank Barden said. “Offensively, defensively, I’m proud of them.”
Adairsville salvaged some pride in the final quarter when Childers ran the ball in from nine yards out for a touchdown. The biggest play of the drive was a 16-yard reverse play to junior Blaine Bishop.
The Tigers then recovered and onside kick.
However, senior Devin Henderson ended the ensuing Adairsville drive with Cartersville’s third interception of the game.
The Canes would tack on one final score on an 8-yard pass from Barden to Quattlebaum.
The Tigers are still in good playoff position at 5-3 on the season and Bishop feels his team will improve on the game.
“It is what it is. [Cartersville] is not No. 2 in the state by coincidence,” Bishop said. “We’ll get in the film room tomorrow and see what we can get better at. Our attention will turn to winning out and controlling our own destiny. Barring something crazy, this game doesn’t hurt our seeding.”
Childers was the leading rusher for the Tigers with 93 yards on 16 carries. Sophomore tailback Sidnee Johnson had 17 carries for 75 yards on the game.
Cartersville was led on defense by Reed and Quattlebaum. Quattlebaum had nine tackles to go along with his two interceptions. He also had 93 yards on four receptions and a touchdown.
The Canes are now 8-0 and will host Sonoraville next Friday. Meanwhile, the Tigers will travel to Gordon Central.