However, despite all the recent success Cartersville has experienced, the Purple Hurricane players, coaches and fans left Weinman Stadium disappointed Friday night after the Canes lost to the Golden Lions by a score of 31-19.
“It was a great season,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “In the last two years, you go 13-1 and 11-1, I’d say that’s pretty doggone good.
“We battled on defense and battled on offense, and that’s all you can ask of them.”
For the second consecutive week, the conditions did not help the Cartersville offense. St. Pius relies heavily on the run game offensively, while Cartersville typically tries to stay balanced. The wet conditions forced Cartersville to play St. Pius’ game and run the ball 41 times to just 11 pass attempts.
“The gameplan is to run the ball 50 percent of the time, and pass the ball 50 percent of the time,” Barden said. “It’s hard to do that under the circumstances. It is what it is. You have to go out there and play.”
Cartersville had little trouble running the ball on its first possession. Junior running back Kalin Heath ran for three first downs on four consecutive carries. The Canes made it as far as the 15-yard line before a holding penalty sent the Canes back. The team was unable to convert on a fourth-and-3 at the 17-yard line three plays later, and the Canes came away without any points.
However, the defense stepped up and forced a St. Pius punt on the next possession. A mishandled snap on the punt and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play gave Cartersville a first-and-goal at the St. Pius 2-yard line. Sophomore running back Tiamon Pennymon punched the ball in from there for a 6-0 lead eight minutes into the game. The two-point conversion attempt was no good.
“On the first drive, we drove down there and got the penalty and that drove us back,” Barden said. “But we battled. We got that break in the kicking game and went up.”
St. Pius then put together one of several long drives in the game. The Golden Lions went 73 yards on a 13-play, 10-minute drive, ending in a 3-yard quarterback keeper touchdown by Joey Connors.
The Canes were on their way to responding during their next possession. However, another holding penalty on a third-and-3 forced Cartersville to back up, and eventually punt. The penalty became especially debilitating for Cartersville because it negated a long first-down run by quarterback Brooks Barden.
“We had about a 15-yard play on third down for a first down and got a penalty. That hurt us a little bit, but the kids kept playing,” Frank Barden said.
The ensuing punt was blocked by St. Pius as the ball rolled all the way down to the Cartersville 18-yard line. St. Pius would settle for a short field goal to take a 10-6 lead at the half.
Forty-five penalty yards hurt the Canes who rushed for 102 yards in the first half. Heath had 61 of those yards. As a result of the conditions and the success in the running game, Cartersville threw the ball just twice in the half.
St. Pius received the kickoff in the second half and put together another one of its long drives. This one went nine plays for 63 yards, ending in a 21-yard touchdown on an end-around to Jack Pelt.
“They do what they do,” Barden said of St. Pius’ long drives. “Weather like it is, that helps.”
Cartersville responded with a 16-play, 65-yard drive. The Canes gave St. Pius a taste of its own medicine, accumulating yards on the ground thanks to Heath and Barden. Barden had 50 yards rushing on the drive, including the touchdown run on fourth-and-goal on a quarterback draw. At that point, the Canes trailed 17-12 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
It did not take long for St. Pius to respond, however. The Golden Lions’ standout fullback, Dalton Wilson, broke the tackles of a handful of Hurricanes and emerged from a pileup to run 42 yards to the Cartersville 3-yard line. Connors punched it in from the 1-yard line to give St. Pius a 24-12 lead.
On Cartersville’s ensuing possession, Fred Dorsey intercepted a deep pass down the middle of the field on the first play of the possession. Dorsey ran the ball back to the Cartersville 3-yard line. Wilson scored from three yards out two plays later to give St. Pius a commanding 31-12 lead.
The Canes did respond by putting together a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Barden 12-yard pass to senior wideout Gordon Gray. Tiamon Pennymon rushed for 52 yards on the drive and helped bring Cartersville to a 31-19 deficit with just over two minutes remaining.
However, the score would not be enough, as St. Pius will move on to the quarterfinals and Cartersville’s season comes to a disappointing conclusion.
“That’s just how it is in the playoffs, you win, you move on. You lose, you go home. Anytime you lose in the playoffs, it really doesn’t matter what your regular season record is, you want to stay and move on,” Barden said. “We prepared and the kids worked hard. They came out and battled. You can’t ever question their heart.”
Heath was the team’s leading rusher with 95 yards on 17 carries to go along with 10 tackles on defense. Pennymon finished the game with 91 yards on nine carries.
The conditions neutralized Cartersville’s speed, and Brooks Barden registered just 11 pass attempts. He did contribute on the ground, however, rushing for 94 yards, 91 in the second half.
The Canes actually outgained St. Pius on offense, 302-229.
Senior safety Mark Quattlebaum and sophomore linebacker Tyler Reed each had 10 tackles on the game.