The middle school football teams from Cartersville and Calhoun each kept an offensive trick up their sleeves for use in the Bartow Gordon Middle School Athletic Association championship game …
The middle school football teams from Cartersville and Calhoun each kept an offensive trick up their sleeves for use in the Bartow Gordon Middle School Athletic Association championship game Wednesday at Weinman Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets brought out a completely new quarterback in Kaleb Ray. The move gave the Canes defense fits most of the night. He accounted for three touchdowns and two 2-point conversions — the latter of which tied the score at 28-28 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
But it was Cartersville's secret weapon that helped decide the game. Defensive lineman Keylan McCarty carried the ball three times for 33 yards and two touchdowns. His 14-yard score, complete with dragging a helpless defender into the end zone, gave the Canes a 41-28 lead and proved to be the nail in the coffin.
"We saved that package for this game," Cartersville head coach Brett Tolbert said. "We've had it in all year, but we waited until this game to run that play. He's a special one. He's a big boy, but he can run."
McCarty was one of three different Canes to find the end zone twice in the victory.
Running back Malachi Jeffries also ran for two touchdowns. He broke off a 52-yarder in the first half with a devastating cut to juke one defender and breakaway speed to outrun the defense. He bettered himself after halftime with a 53-yard score to give Cartersville a 28-20 lead.
"He's our eighth-grade leader running back," Tolbert said of Jeffries. "He's played hard the whole season. If you look back, he's scored multiple long runs all season."
Wide receiver Phillip Schiltz hauled in two fourth-down touchdown passes from quarterback Paul Gamble. Schiltz went high to pull in both scores, using all of his 6-foot, 2-inch frame to pull down a 20-yard touchdown to open the scoring and a 32-yarder to break the 28-all tie.
"He's been impressive all season," Tolbert said of Schiltz. "First of all, it takes the line to block. Paul has to have time to set up and throw. Phillip's just an athlete. He's 6-foot-2, and he can jump. He just made plays when he needed to."
Even with the offensive standouts, the Cartersville defense had to buckle down in the fourth quarter to pull off the win. After Ray threw his second touchdown pass and second 2-point conversion completion in a three-minute span, the game was tied.
Following Schiltz's second dramatic score on a fourth-and-14 play, the Canes defense responded, forcing a turnover on downs while clinging to a 34-28 lead. Cartersville's defense completely sealed things with Collin Fletcher's interception in the final minutes.
"They came out with a different quarterback. No. 1 [Ray] had played receiver and running back all year. It was something we had to make adjustments to," Tolbert said. "It took us a while to make adjustments, because he's a different style. They went two backs where they normally just have one back. We just had to make adjustments, and finally at the end, we got the right adjustment.
"Football on defense is kind of like a chess match. We make a move; they make a move. They made great moves. Everything they did was working. Finally, we made the right call."
The triumph gave Cartersville two wins in three championship game appearances under Tolbert, who took over the middle school team in 2016. Calhoun (6-2) fell short in its bid for back-to-back titles with both of its losses this season coming to Cartersville (8-0).
"I'm ecstatic," Tolbert said. "We started out working hard all summer with our main goal to win this. ... There's not enough words to say what I love about this team. They're special, and they'll always be special to me."