For two weeks, members of the Cartersville football team stewed over their loss to Cherokee. A 14-12 defeat had ended a state record run of regular-season wins. The open date forced the Canes to wait …
For two weeks, members of the Cartersville football team stewed over their loss to Cherokee. A 14-12 defeat had ended a state record run of regular-season wins.
The open date forced the Canes to wait longer than usual to put the setback behind them. But it didn't take long — just one play, in fact — to banish those demons against Cass.
Stratton Tripp connected with Devonte Ross on an 80-yard touchdown pass to open the game, and Cartersville never looked back in a resounding 59-0 win to begin Region 7-AAAAA play Friday at Doug Cochran Stadium.
"We've had a bad taste in our mouth for two weeks, and our guys were eager to show how we respond to adversity," Canes head coach Conor Foster said. "Just really, really proud of how they responded and how we came out ready to play."
While it was clear on that initial play from scrimmage that Cartersville (5-0, 1-0) wouldn't be carrying negative energy into Friday's matchup — the first since 2015 between the programs — the expectation was that Cass (5-1, 0-1) would respond to the early score.
The Colonels nearly did just moments later.
After a long kickoff return and subsequent penalty, Cass began its opening series in Cartersville territory. Just a few plays later, the Colonels had reached the red zone.
However, a fumble recovery by Canes linebacker Britt Mitchell stopped the drive in its tracks. On the ensuing series, Tripp connected with Kolbe Benham on a 64-yard touchdown, and Cartersville never took its foot off the gas en route to its second-largest victory over Cass (the largest being a 63-0 win in 1975).
"I think it would have been a little bit different," Colonels head coach Steve Gates said of what might have changed if his team's first drive had resulted in a touchdown. "That's a physical football team, and that's all there is to it.
"The saying of them being angry and irritated from the Cherokee loss, they played like that. That's to coach Foster's credit. He got those guys, basically, ticked off, and they came over here ticked off. It showed. They beat us up. Hats off to coach Foster, their staff and their players. They beat us in every facet of the football game."
Following the pair of long touchdown passes by Tripp, Cartersville's next two possessions ended with Quante Jennings running the ball into the end zone. The senior scored on runs from 2 and 7 yards out, respectively.
Jennings' second score came on the first drive orchestrated by transfer quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson. A senior committed to the University of Florida, Del Rio-Wilson looked a bit amped up in his first action this season.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder overthrew a couple of passes, finishing 2-for-6 through the air for 46 yards. With his frame, Del Rio-Wilson presented a mismatch running the ball, racking up 24 yards on two carries.
His second series leading the Canes ended with Ross scoring on a 25-yard screen pass. Tripp returned for the subsequent possession. That also ended with a screen to Ross for a touchdown — this one from 82 yards out. Both were one-play drives.
That means Ross accounted for the entire yardage of three one-play series, totaling 187 yards on that trio of touchdowns.
"We work to get all of our guys touches," Foster said in discussing Ross' big night. "Some nights, it's just not there. Tonight was his night.
"He's been a selfless teammate the past few weeks, blocking for his brothers. Tonight was his night, and I'm glad to see him take advantage of it."
Cartersville tacked on a 33-yard field goal by Jesus Gutierrez just before halftime to take a 45-0 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Canes allowed their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks to get some reps. Jake Parker hit Jaylon Benham for an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Malachi Jeffries went 67 yards down the right sideline for a fourth-quarter score.
Overall, the four Cartersville signal-callers each led at least one touchdown drive. Three of the four accounted for a score in some way, and the fourth, Paul Gamble, had a long would-be touchdown run called back due a holding penalty.
"Both of them have bought in and been great teammates," Foster said of Tripp and Del Rio-Wilson. "We had four quarterbacks who played tonight, and all of them did a tremendous job. All of them have unique talents. Just proud of each and every one of them.
"Stratton got off to a great start and got us rolling. None of them dropped the ball from there."
As for the hosts, the Colonels never seemed to be able to get in a rhythm after the opening few minutes.
"We got punched in the mouth and couldn't recover," Gates said. "That's a very, very physical football team. We were not prepared for them.
"I've said all along that's a top-five team in the state, and they played like it. They've got some dudes over there. We couldn't recover from the couple of fumbles early."
Cass will aim to bounce back next week at Woodland in a similar fashion to how Cartersville did following its first loss. Meanwhile, the Canes will look to build a winning streak when they host Hiram at Weinman Stadium.
Foster can only hope things go as well next week as they did Friday.
"I just thought it was an awesome atmosphere," he said. "Congratulations to both sides for playing the game the right way. Nothing but respect for Cass and coach Gates, and what they're doing over there. They're doing a tremendous job, and they're going to continue to do great things.
"Just proud of both sides for coming out and representing Bartow County the right way."