A traditional showdown between Cartersville and Sandy Creek might have lost some luster this year, but don’t try telling that to Canes coach Joey King.
“They’ve had a few bumps in the road,” King said. “We’re not counting them out by any means.”
The two will face off tonight at Weinman Stadium.
The Patriots, who gave Cartersville its closest regular-season game last year and were assumed by many to once again be the Canes’ top competition in Region 5-AAAA, started this season 3-0 but have since lost three straight.
That includes back-to-back region losses, 71-16 to Troup County and 38-35 last week to Chapel Hill.
True to form, though, King and the Canes won’t be overlooking their next opponent.
“They’ve still got some pieces to the puzzle,” King said. “They’ve got a talented roster, they’re physical, they fly around and hit. ... We know their coaches know what they’re doing, and we hope they don’t get it figured out before playing us.”
There’s also some added incentive in the mix.
King, 49-2 in three-plus years at Cartersville, is going for his 50th career victory, which would make him the fastest to that number in Georgia high school history.
“That record is a testament to my coaching staff and the kids that we have here, the support that’s in place,” King said. “So that’s a lot bigger than just me.”
Canes quarterback Trevor Lawrence could also potentially make some history.
He’s sitting exactly 400 passing yards behind Deshaun Watson’s all-time Georgia record of 13,077 in a career. He’s also nine behind Watson’s passing touchdown record of 155, although that will probably take at least a few more games for him to break.
Tonight’s game will also be a chance for Cartersville to win its 38th game in a row, and keep marching towards a third-straight state title.
“Being better than we were yesterday, that’s kind of the mindset that this team’s taken on,” King said. “They compete daily. They’re not satisfied.”
Sandy Creek, though reeling, will still be dangerous.
According to King, the Patriots might have the best defensive line Cartersville has faced all year.
Defensive end Nick Fulwider is a handful for any offensive line. The 6-foot-7 monster has offers from numerous Power 5 programs, including Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Wisconsin.
He’s ranked the 87th-best recruit in the state of Georgia by 247 Sports.
Defensive tackle Taylor Hodge also has college offers. He’s been injured, but is expected to play.
In the secondary, Nick Toomer also has a few Division-I offers.
On offense, senior running back Jordan Clark is averaging over 100 yards a game for the run-first Patriots, although quarterback Matthew Williams isn’t afraid to put the ball in the air, mostly to junior receiver Judah Johnson.
“The quarterback does a decent job,” King said. “He’s athletic and can hurt you. They’ve got a couple of guys who are good receivers, and then their running back is a physical ballcarrier. We got to see him in person a couple weeks ago against Starr’s Mill, and he’s a really physical runner.”
The game will also be a chance for the Hurricanes to get back to the friendly confines of Weinman Stadium after two straight weeks away from home.
As the playoffs draw closer, that in itself is a welcome gift.
“Our guys, they love playing in front of the home crowd,” King said. “The excitement that’s here surrounding home games is a great atmosphere to be a part of here in high school football, and our guys are glad to be playing in front of the home crowd.”