OFF AND RUNNING — For the second time in three seasons, Bartow County football teams, collectively, have the best record possible through two weeks. Cartersville, Cass and Woodland are all currently …
OFF AND RUNNING — For the second time in three seasons, Bartow County football teams, collectively, have the best record possible through two weeks.
Cartersville, Cass and Woodland are all currently 2-0. Meanwhile, Adairsville is 1-1 with its only loss coming to Cass Friday night. Local teams are 7-1 overall and 6-0 against non-Bartow opposition.
In 2018, those numbers were 6-1 and 5-0. That year, the Colonels were off opening week before beating the Tigers in Week 2. The Canes and Wildcats were both 2-0 at that point.
Even though it's ideal for all involved to see Bartow teams racking up wins early in the year, as 2018 shows, the hot starts aren't necessarily a harbinger for future success.
During that season, Cass wound up losing its final nine games. Woodland and Adairsville both missed out on the playoffs with identical 4-6 records. For what it's worth, Cartersville went undefeated into the state championship game that year before falling to Blessed Trinity.
RAY OF SUNSHINE — Sometimes when a quarterback loses out on a fall camp competition, they sulk. Other times, they maintain a positive attitude but still never get to see the field.
Connor Ray has taken a third approach.
The Cass sophomore has carved out a niche as a gadget player of sorts. He's carried the ball and caught passes through the first two weeks of the season. Friday, he hauled in a pass from freshman QB Devin Henderson and showed off his athletic ability en route to an 80-yard touchdown.
Ray remains the team's backup QB. And although Henderson has performed admirably through his first two varsity games, Ray could provide some intriguing opportunities on trick plays, abridged Wildcat packages or if need be, as a full-blown starter.
"I've told him from Day 1, he's a good football player, and I'm going to find him a place to play," Cass head coach Steve Gates said of Ray. "Just because somebody doesn't play quarterback or middle linebacker doesn't mean they can't contribute to the team. And Connor Ray has contributed to the team tremendously right now. ...
"The crazy part about it is, he's still our No. 2 quarterback if need be. It's not like Devin blew him out for the starting job. If we needed Connor Ray to go play quarterback tonight, he would go play quarterback for four quarters and do a fine job. He's that type of athlete, extremely smart and just a gamer. I love the kid."
LESSON LEARNED — In the first half of Friday's North Bartow rivalry game, Adairsville senior Courtney Slocum and sophomore Chris Roper combined for one offensive touch. The Tigers ended that half with three points.
In the second half, each player had five touches. Adairsville ended that half with 14 points.
Needless to say, Slocum and Roper being heavily involved in the offense makes good things happen for the Tigers. The tough part for Adairsville is that the duo also happen to be two of the team's best defensive backs.
Managing snaps is one of the hardest things coaches at smaller schools have to do, and it changes every year based on personnel. Tigers head coach Eric Bishop said he found out during the first half that when his team is facing an extremely athletic team, such as the Colonels, he needs to get the ball in the hands of his most dynamic players as often as possible.
"We learned something, we have to use players two ways," Bishop said. "We don't have the numbers or the experience right now to platoon. We just managed that kind of in the first half and tried to use them a bit more in the second half to match that team speed and make some big gains that weren't there in the first half."
The switch certainly worked.
Slocum wound up with 112 yards (87 receiving and 25 rushing) on three catches and three rushing attempts. He hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass to pull Adairsville within 20-17 in the third quarter.
Roper, meanwhile, picked up 21 total yards on three carries and 34 yards on two receptions. He also had a long catch called back on an ineligible player downfield penalty.
COVID CONCERNS — While Bartow teams have yet to see any regular-season games canceled due to coronavirus-related issues, several programs local fans are familiar with haven't been as fortunate.
Nearby Allatoona, which has opened against Cartersville in recent seasons, had its Week 2 matchup with Denmark called off after the Forsyth County school released a message sighting, "COVID exposure quarantines and injuries."
Another Cobb County locals have seen recently, Kell, saw its Friday night contest canceled, as well. Kell, which had been a region foe of Cass and Woodland the past four years, was set to face Hillgrove for the first time ever. Hillgrove announced the cancellation of the game due to a positive case of COVID in the program.
Carrollton called off its game at Newnan due to possible exposure within its program, according to its opponent. The Trojans had been in the same region as the Colonels and Wildcats the past four seasons.
Blessed Trinity — a current Region 7-AAAAA member alongside Cartersville, Cass and Woodland — has canceled its first two games against Forsyth Central and Marist, respectively, for coronavirus-related reasons.