Wet and windy conditions along with key injuries at the wide receiver position led to a season-low 28 points for the Canes Friday night against the Spartans.
“We missed on a few shots just barely over the fingertips,” Barden said of the passing game. “You come in with the wind blowing 30 miles per hour and it’s pouring rain. We knew coming in that’s not to our advantage, but the kids hung in there.”
As a result, quarterback Brooks Barden did not have his best performance. The senior went 5-for-18 for 59 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The Cartersville passing game had been averaging nearly 250 yards during the regular season and Barden had been averaging four touchdowns per game. He only threw three interceptions all season, making for an uncharacteristic game for the senior UNC-Charlotte commit.
Along with the unfavorable conditions, a contributing factor to the passing game’s struggles was the absences of wide receivers Gordon Gray and Terrius Callahan. The pair had combined for 570 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns during the regular season.
The injuries to the wide receivers forced inexperienced wideouts into action. The unfamiliarity manifested itself in four illegal procedure penalties, stalling several promising drives.
In total, the Purple Hurricanes had seven offensive penalties in the second half.
The penalties, injuries and weather created an inconducive environment for the Canes offense, something they hope will not carry over into their second round game at home against St. Pius on Friday.
WORKING THE PLAN — Adairsville didn’t get the result it wanted Friday night, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or for lack of sticking to its plan in hopes something really good would happen.
“I thought offensively we had a good game plan and put up 28 points against somebody who hadn’t typically given up that many all year long,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said.
The Tigers were tied 21-all late in the second quarter when White County got a break in the form of a Tiger fumble and capitalized on it and moved to a 27-21 lead. The Warriors came out of the half fired up and stretched their lead to 35-21, then tacked on a field goal to earn a 38-21 lead with 7:27 left in the game.
Despite trailing 17 points late in the game, Adairsville kept believing and its players kept playing to win. The Tigers caught something of a break when White County gave them a short field by kicking to the Tigers 44. Two plays later Marcus Childers hit Austin Harris for a 63-yard touchdown, and after Dakota Hines made the PAT, the Tigers trailed just 38-28 with 7:10 still left in the game and still in possession of three timeouts.
The Warriors ran two plays and fumbled at midfield and suddenly the outcome of the game was in doubt. However Adairsville was only able to move to the 28 of White County, where it missed a 45-yard field goal try. The Warriors responded with an 80-yard drive and took command again by going up 45-28.
Bishop said his team needed a break instead of White County going on a long drive.
“We were playing for a break, and I kept telling the kids, ‘We’re not going to keep facing these obstacles. We’re going to get a break and it’s going to turn the game around,’” Bishop said. “We just never got it. We were backed up to our end zone a couple of drives. That’s a tough task against a team like White County. That defense is solid.”
A SPECIAL WARRIOR — In high school sports, coaches are quick to praise good play even when it’s from a member of an opposing team. That was especially true when it came to describing the play of Dalton Whitfield, the power running back of White County.
Coach Bishop said Whitfield was impressive as a running back and in the other aspects of his game.
Adairsville had hoped it could use its depth to wear down the Warriors and get a victory.
“We kept trying to push the tempo and wearing them out,” he said. “We didn’t get them to that point. We got them close in both halves but just couldn’t turn the corner with it.”
The Tigers needed to wear down Whitfield or his blockers and it never happened.
“He played linebacker and running back all night,” Bishop said. “He played special teams. Dalton Whitfield’s a pretty special player.”
Whitfield scored three touchdowns and ran 27 times for 248 yards in his role as running back.
—The Daily Tribune News Staffers Jason Greenberg and David Royal contributed to this report.