CAUTIOUS CANES — There were a few standout Cartersville players who were not on the field for Cartersville Friday in the team’s scrimmage against Dalton at Weinman Stadium. Returning leading tackler, junior linebacker and running back Harrison Allen, and all-region safety Marko Dudley, both sat out the scrimmage for precautionary reasons. First-year head coach Conor Foster said the injuries are not serious, and he expects both players to be available for the Allatoona game to open the season on Friday.
"We know what we have with those two guys, so there’s no sense in making something minor something major,” he said. "I thought we got out of [the scrimmage] clean health-wise. I was very pleased with that. We had some cramping and some little stuff. That’s to be expected early in the year. We just have to take care of our bodies and continue to push our conditioning."
While Allen made his biggest contributions a season ago on defense, he’ll also be counted on in the running game this year, and Dudley will be used on offense at wideout as well.
Without the two standouts, Cartersville’s offense got off to a slow start in the scrimmage. The team averaged less than three yards per carry on 21 rushing attempts with the starters in during the first three quarters, and senior Louisville commit and preseason all-state quarterback Tee Webb went 8-for-21 for 86 yards in the passing game.
As is typically the case early in the season, the defense is ahead of the offense, but Foster isn’t concerned. Cartersville’s offense got better as the game went on, including scoring on its last possession with the starters in on a methodical 10-play, 43-yard drive.
Foster said the team used the scrimmage to work on finding its offensive identity as the Canes head into their first regular-season game.
"I think, offensively, it’s trying to find what we do well,” Foster said. "It’s early in the year, a lot of different parts. We’re trying to figure out how much guys can play both ways. The biggest adjustment for us was just settling down. We were so excited and so keyed up to go do the things that you work on. I think we did a great job as a coaching staff and our senior leaders really stepped in and said, ‘Calm down. We have a good football team. We’re going to be just fine.’ I was proud to see how they responded.”
FAMILIAR FACE IN NEW ROLE — Even though it was just a scrimmage, Friday’s contest against Dalton was the first time Conor Foster got to lead the team from the smoke out of Hurricane Alley as the head coach of his alma mater.
After the game, his young daughter jumped into his arms and said, “You’re the head coach, Daddy,” just after he delivered his postgame address to the team.
As a former Canes state champ as a player and the program's defensive coordinator for the last four seasons, the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Foster.
"This place is special. I love it with my whole heart. Just so blessed and humbled by the opportunity to lead this program,” he said. "I’m so thankful for all the support in the community. So thankful for all the fans in the stands. Again, my heart goes out to everybody. I just love them and appreciate them so much. Being a Purple Hurricane is something you carry with you your whole life."
YOUTHFUL BACKFIELDS — Woodland senior Demarcus Williams was almost certainly the most talented member of either backfield during Friday's scrimmage at Adairsville, but then again, he was also one of the only upperclassmen with that designation.
Both teams started juniors at quarterback with Adairsville trotting out Conner Crunkelton and Woodland putting Johnathan Thomas under center. And while each side gave multiple backs several carries, the vast majority of them went to underclassmen.
For the Tigers, junior Ja'Maury Johnson got a few carries early and even broke off a 36-yard gain in the second half. Johnson finished with 61 yards — second on the team to sophomore Eli Agnew, who wound up with 81 yards and a touchdown. Crunkelton had a few solid rushing attempts but was bottled up most of the time by the Wildcats.
Woodland, meanwhile, saw Asa James impress with just over 100 yards and a 74-yard touchdown. Freshman Christian Vera also broke off a ridiculously long scoring run, spanning 90 yards early in the fourth quarter.
Aside from Williams, the only senior on either side to really get many carries was Adairsville slotback Derrick Simmons. On one hand, it means this year could feature quite a few growing pains in the backfield, but on the other, it should bode well for the future of both programs.