If Friday night’s game at Weinman Stadium between Cartersville High and Dalton wasn’t a scrimmage, it would have been one of the most exciting games of the season.
Junior running back Earl Harris scored on a 60-plus yard touchdown run to give the Canes the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter of the back-and-forth affair, ultimately resulting in a 24-21 Canes win.
Nevertheless, the Weinman Stadium crowd’s reaction to Harris’ score, despite a strong turnout, was muted, with the game counting on neither team’s record. That doesn’t mean, though, that the scrimmage wasn’t valuable for first-year head coach Conor Foster and his staff as they prepare Cartersville for its first regular-season game next week at Allatoona.
"I thought we fought hard. We have a lot to clean up always early in the year. There’s a lot to get coached on,” Foster said. "We just have to continue to improve. But, overall, I was pleased with the character that we showed. I was pleased with our resiliency, pleased with the adjustments that we made throughout the game. So a lot to grow on for sure.”
Dalton looked sharper early on, stopping Cartersville’s first two drives and going down the field to score on its first possession.
It appeared the Catamounts were going to take a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, but then the Cartersville secondary stepped up for the first time of what would be several times on the night. Junior cornerback Devonte Ross stepped in and broke up a slant route in the end zone, not only preventing a two-score Dalton lead but knocking the ball up into the air and into the hands of junior safety Evan Slocum. Slocum returned the interception to around midfield.
Cartersville would settle for a field goal on that possession. However, after an Amarai Orr interception on Dalton’s next drive, the Canes broke through for a touchdown on two plays for 11 yards, culminating in a Quante Jennings 2-yard touchdown run for a 10-7 lead.
Dalton’s next two offensive possessions ended in a 3-and-out and then a Devonte Ross interception as the defense began to settle in.
The Catamounts, though, gave the Canes a taste of their own medicine near the end of the first half with points off a turnover. After an interception, Georgia Tech commit Jahmyr Gibbs went 47 yards to pay dirt to give Dalton a 14-10 halftime lead.
"There’s a lot of nerves, al lot of jitters, not really ready to let loose yet,” Foster said of a slow start to the game. “But, I think, as the game went on, we played better on defense. You have some new faces out there, and no matter how much you practice, it’s different when you play someone else in Weinman Stadium and these lights are on. There’s just a lot of opportunity for growth from this week to next week.”
Despite Dalton leading at halftime, Cartersville would eventually win the battle with the starters in, as the Canes scored on their second drive of the second half on Jenning’s 3-yard run to cap a 10-play, 43-yard drive. There were two fourth-down conversions on the drive.
That score of 17-14 in favor of the Canes held up until the starters were relieved of their duties to start the fourth quarter.
Dalton took the lead midway through the fourth with a touchdown on a long run, but Cartersville countered with Ross’ late-game touchdown run to eventually end up on the winning side of the scoreboard.
Despite the win, the outcome wasn’t all that important to Foster after the game. What’s more important to him will be the Sunday film session as Cartersville prepares to take on Allatoona on the road next Friday.
"Good teams grow from the first game to the next game,” he said. “Even though this is just a scrimmage, we’ll see a lot of progress next week."