The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes improved to 2-0 on the year after defeating the West Forsyth Wolverines (1-1) at home 28-17 on Friday evening.
“I'm proud of how our guys responded to adversity, I’m proud how our guys overcame a great opponent,” said Cartersville head coach Conor Foster. “They’ve got a tremendous amount of depth, they’re big and physical and our kids took their best shot tonight and responded well.”
Senior quarterback Stratton Tripp hit senior Devonte Ross early and often in the first quarter, connecting with the versatile wide receiver on a roughly 30-yard pass just two plays into the game.
A seeming West Forsyth interception, however, was overturned due to a pass interference call against the Wolverines. Seconds later, Tripp would tag Ross on an 11-yard touchdown pass to get the Purple Hurricanes on the board first.
West Forsyth and Cartersville then exchanged punts, with senior Wolverines running back Daba Fofana breaking off a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 7-7 with about two minutes left in the quarter.
Containing West Forsyth’s potent run game, Foster said, was no easy task.
“They’re bigger than us across the board and their running back is really physical, he just never gives up on a play,” he said. “I thought our guys did a tremendous job of rallying to the ball and gang tackling, and just playing together.”
Cartersville wasted no time at all finding the Wolverines’ end zone on the team’s next possession. On third-and-5, senior Evan Slocum lobbed a blistering 41-yard touchdown pass to Ross to make it 14-7, Hurricanes, with less than 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
West Forsyth relied heavily on Fofana on the Wolverines’ next possession, which culminated with sophomore quarterback Keegan Stover hitting junior Ashton Van Horn on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Cartersville would go three-and-out on the team’s next possession, as West Forsyth gained its first lead of the game via a 50-yard field goal from senior kicker Alex Wilson.
The Wolverines’ 17-14 lead, however, was short-lived. After a plethora of personal fouls, the Wolverines more or less invited the Hurricanes into their own red zone. Eventually, senior running back Quante Jennings would close out the first half with a thunderous 5-yard touchdown run with just 34 seconds left in the quarter.
Cartersville entered halftime with a 21-17 lead.
“I think we just settled in,” Foster said. “We kept mixing it up, kept giving them different looks and our guys kept it in front.”
West Forsyth couldn’t make it past midfield on the opening possession of the second half, having to punt away the ball from the 50-yard line. Despite starting from the Hurricanes’ own 13, it didn’t take long for Cartersville to enter Wolverines’ territory with a nearly 50-yard pass from Tripp to Slocum setting up a 24-yard Jennings touchdown with 8:52 to go in the third.
“West Forsyth does so much blitzing and mixing up pressures and dropping different people,” Foster said. “I thought our kids on offense did a good job of staying within themselves and not trying to do too much, and taking advantage of the plays when they’re there.”
It would remain a 28-17 contest for the rest of the night — although the Wolverines certainly had their fair share of squandered scoring opportunities.
While sophomore defensive back Grey Brockman did manage to intercept Tripp late in the third, the Wolverines simply ended up punting the ball back to Cartersville from the team’s own 44.
In the fourth quarter, Wilson missed two field goal attempts for the Wolverines — one from 47 yards out and the other a failed 38-yarder.
The Purple Hurricanes regained possession of the pigskin with less than a minute remaining. Not surprisingly, the offense decided to assume the victory formation and simply run out the rest of the clock.
“We eliminated the big plays in the second half, and a lot of that goes back to tackling,” Foster said. “We just kind of caught our second wind.”
As for the unofficial stats, Tripp finished the game with about 16 completions, one touchdown pass and one interception, concluding the contest with an estimated 160 total passing yards.
Jennings wrapped up the win with an estimated 75 yards, including two touchdown runs, on about 14 carries. Top receiver Ross, unofficially, had two touchdowns and close to 110 yards on about 10 catches.
The defensive front, Foster said, was certainly a difference maker in the ball game.
“The defensive line and the linebackers, they just took the challenge head-on,” he said. “They were physical, and they played with a tremendous amount of heart.”
The Purple Hurricanes are set to host Alexander (2-0) next Friday at Weinman Stadium. Alexander had few difficulties surmounting their last opponent, easily defeating Lithia Springs 45-7 Friday night.
Cartersville heads into that contest riding a state record 60-game regular season winning streak.
While Foster said he’d have to rewatch the game tape to nail down the specifics, he did highlight a few areas of general improvement heading into the third game of the 2020 season.
“Always blocking and tackling and getting better at the fundamentals,” he said, “and continuing to improve in special teams.”