There have been more than 100 classes to come and go through the Cartersville High football program.
None have accomplished more than the Class of 2019.
The Canes won state titles in each of their first two seasons and fell to state champion Blessed Trinity the following two years, including Wednesday’s 23-9 defeat at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Basically, they've been among the two best teams in Class 4A each of the past four seasons.
Although the ending wasn’t what they would have hoped, the game marked the final time the winningest class in school history took the field. And head coach Joey King believes that’s a moment that should be celebrated.
“Glad to send this senior class off,” he said. “The most decorated class in Cartersville High School history. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”
The group, which wound up 55-2, became the first in the 105-year history of the program to finish their high school career with a 40-0 regular season record.
Each of the classes’ first two campaigns (2015 and 2016) ended with perfect 15-0 marks and state championships. Those years the Canes capped their unbeaten seasons with wins over Buford (10-0 in ’15) and Thomson (58-7 in ’16).
Last year, the then-juniors finished 11-1 following a second-round loss to Blessed Trinity at Weinman Stadium. It ended a 31-game winning streak, but the Canes started another run in August.
Following a few early routs, Cartersville gutted out a few wins on the way to yet another region title. Once in the playoffs, the Canes pretty much cruised to the state semifinals before gutting out a win over Marist to reach the championship game.
While the team won’t lose nearly as many starters as it did from the 2017 team, there were still plenty of seniors who put together great showings in their final game for the Canes.
Running back Marcus Gary put a bow on his senior year — his only season as a starter — with 175 yards on the ground. His huge day put him over 1,600 rushing yards for the season.
Tight end Jackson Lowe led the Canes with four catches. After his final high school outing, the Tennessee commit spoke with Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt, who will be on the sideline for Lowe's next competitive football game.
Linebacker Tristan Carlton paced the defense with nine tackles, while Sunni Moorehead, Bobby Harris and sophomore Harrison Allen each finished with eight. Harris, in particular, had a monster game with 3.5 tackles for loss.
“I told them I love them and I’m proud of them, regardless,” King said of his message to the graduating seniors. “Winning nor losing defines who they are. It’s about who they become through this process. All of our seniors are champions. Don’t be defined by a win or loss. You’re defined by how you respond to either one.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be on the winning side a whole lot. I think our kids have respond well. We were on the losing side here tonight. I still think they responded well, because they’re champions and that’s what champions do.”
While Wednesday’s game represented the end of the road for more than a dozen seniors, it provided a valuable learning experience for the loads of underclassmen who will return next fall.
But before that 2019 season gets underway, King knows there’s a lot of improving that will need to occur. A lot of holes, namely along the defensive line and at the offensive skill positions, will need to be filled.
“We’ve got some guys back, but the offseason is a whole ’nother deal,” King said. “We’ve got to get bigger, faster and stronger. The experience will definitely be beneficial for us. I’m anxious to see what these guys are capable of in the offseason.”