This is the program’s second consecutive region championship and third in four years. Cartersville finishes the season with an 8-1 record and Calhoun finishes at 7-2.
Calhoun opened the game with a successful onside kick and took over at the Canes’ 45-yard line. The Yellow Jackets then drove the remaining 45 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 2-yard run by Zack Fuller. The point-after-touchdown was blocked by Dominique Williams.
After the kickoff, Cartersville took over at their own 32-yard line, and on their second play, Lawrence tried to find one of his favorite targets in Evan Williams but the pass was intercepted by Tijai Whatley and returned 52 yards for a touchdown. Calhoun attempted a 2-point conversion, which failed, giving the Jackets a 12-0 lead over the Canes just halfway through the first quarter.
The Canes picked up their focus level after Calhoun’s second touchdown as Williams returned the kickoff to the Canes’ 30-yard line. Cartersville then went on a 70-yard drive, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Lawrence to Marcus Gary.
After the first of seven crucial PAT kicks by Jonathon Cruz, Cartersville trailed 12-7 with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Calhoun returned the ensuing Cartersville kickoff to their own 40-yard line, and four plays later, Zack Fuller scored his second touchdown of the day on a on a 1-yard run with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter.
Calhoun’s PAT woes continued and would turn out to be crucial as the PAT was missed.
The Canes recovered another onside kick attempt as momentum seemed to shift in their favor.
Lawrence then found Dominique Williams on a 45-yard pass play and the Canes trailed 18-14 with 5:36 left in the second quarter. Cartersville’s defense stopped Calhoun on their next possession and took over at their 40-yard line.
Cartersville quickly went 60 yards, scoring on Gary’s 7-yard run for a 21-18 lead heading into the half and they did not trail again the rest of the game.
Cartersville scored first in the second half when Lawrence connected again with Gary on a 65-yard scoring strike as the Canes extended their lead to 28-18 with 3:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The Canes’ defense forced a Calhoun punt, which the Jackets downed at the 2-yard line. On the Canes’ second play after the punt, Dominique Williams broke through the left side of the Calhoun defense and went 96 yards for the score for a 35-18 lead as the fourth quarter began.
On Calhoun’s next possession, the Jackets quickly went 65 yards on four plays, scoring on a halfback pass from Whatley to Davis Allen and Elmer Gutierrez made his first PAT of the game to cut Cartersville’s lead to 35-25.
Calhoun then recovered an onside kick, and with 6:42 left in the game, Potts hit Whatley on a 40-yard pass to cut the Canes’ lead down to 35-32 after Gutierrez’s PAT.
Cartersville then recovered the Jackets’ next onside kick, and behind the running of Myles Henderson and Lawrence, Cartersville began to drive into Calhoun territory. On a fourth-and-12, Lawrence went around the left side of the Calhoun defense, and as he dove for the goal line, he was stripped of the football and Calhoun recovered at their own 2-yard line.
After no gain on their first play, the Jackets’ Potts threw to Brandon Spector and Stanley Watkins picked it off and returned the interception 7 yards for a Cartersville touchdown. Cruz’s PAT gave the Canes a 42-32 lead with 3:51 left in the game. Just 30 seconds later, Potts connected with Whatley for a 45-yard TD. Gutierrez added the PAT and the Canes’ lead was cut to 42-39.
The Canes took over at their own 45 after recovering Calhoun’s onside kick. Cartersville drove to Calhoun’s 16-yard line, and facing a fourth-and-14, Dominique Williams scored on a thrilling 16-yard reverse that upped the Canes lead to 49-39 after Cruz’s PAT.
Calhoun came right back as Potts found Whatley again on a 60-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left in the game.
After the Canes recovered another Calhoun onside kick attempt, they ran out the clock to win the game and region championship.
Cartersville had 520 yards of offense to Calhoun’s 389.
The Canes were led by Lawrence at quarterback and Williams running the ball, along with Gary, Williams and Anthony Seigler as the primary targets for Lawrence in the passing game.