This week of Bartow County football brought a surprise and a thriller.
Adairsville, the presumptive underdog against Cass, came out and held its own to defeat the Colonels, evening its record at 1-1 in the intracounty rivalry game.
The game featured a dramatic swing after the Tigers inserted Mason Boswell at quarterback.
They then scored 29 unanswered in the 29-15 win over Cass, which was playing its season opener.
The next day, Cartersville almost fell victim to a similar type of comeback, as the Canes and Bartram Trail traded blows deep into Sunday morning, with Cartersville coming out on top in a 52-45 win.
This space alone could have just been devoted to the outstanding Cartersville players in the nationally-televised thriller, but with the impressive win, Adairsville had some key contributors rise to the occasion as well.
Woodland had the weekend off, but all four teams will return to action next Friday in non-region games.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Trevor Lawrence — Cartersville (2)
It’s hard to talk about Trevor Lawrence without being redundant.
On the biggest stage of this young season, he was fairly close to perfect, completing 18 of his 23 passes for 403 yards with four touchdowns — the fifth was Jackson Lowe’s fumble recovery in the end zone after a Lawrence pass.
The Clemson commit looked like he had the ball on a string the whole night, making ‘wow’ throws.
It was that kind of night for the senior, adding even more tape to his foot-long highlight reel.
He was the biggest draw in this Saturday showcase, and time and again demonstrated why.
Even after it appeared Bartram Trail had all the momentum, he led the Canes down the field late for a go-ahead touchdown.
He connected with Horton and Lowe multiple times on throws that were perfectly placed. Simply put, he was as he’s always been.
Mason Boswell — Adairsville
When it comes to all-around performances, few players in the county will be able to match what Boswell did Friday for the Tigers. The junior played quarterback, running back, safety and returned kicks for Adairsville, and did it all well.
The start of Adairsville’s comeback from 15-0 down coincided with Boswell moving to take most of the snaps at quarterback. He ran a very effective read option with running back Christian Steele and also added a necessary element of big-play passing. Boswell scored the first Tiger touchdown on a 3-yard run as a running back just before halftime and then took over in the second half.
As a quarterback, he, in order, scored on a 1-yard run, scored on a 7-yard run, converted the 2-point try after that touchdown, and then threw a 90-yard touchdown to put his team up by two scores and effectively end the game.
For the game, he ran nine times for 36 yards and three touchdowns, completed both of his pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown, and recorded six tackles and an interception on defense.
With his throwing and running, he had a hand in 26 of the 29 points Adairsville scored.
Dakota Hughes — Adairsville
The Tigers’ big linebacker was everywhere on Friday, coming up in the right spot for big plays. After Adairsville scored its second touchdown to cut the Cass lead to 15-13, Hughes nearly singlehandedly got his team the ball back.
First, he strung out a running play, shed his blocker and dropped the ballcarrier for a 3-yard loss on first down. Then, on third down, he got into the backfield and dropped Colonels quarterback Rett Moore for a sack to force a punt.
Adairsville would go right down the field and score for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Hughes had a little to do with that too after Cass drove to the Adairsville 5-yard line. On fourth down, with the Colonels threatening to score and perhaps take the lead back, Hughes came off the right edge and knocked down Moore’s pass to force the turnover. Adairsville, again, would score on its next drive, essentially ending the game. Hughes finished with six tackles, two tackles for loss, the sack and the pass deflection.
Rico Frye — Cartersville (2)
When talking about Rico Frye, the prevailing sentiment among this Cartersville team is that he represents an added dimension that it didn’t have last year, a contrast to the speedy Creamer. Frye is a bruiser, the type of runner where the first defender to get his hands on him is not going to bring him down. Frye was huge in short-yardage situations Saturday, and Cartersville leaned on him in the drive that would ultimately produce the deciding touchdown.
Frye carried the ball 18 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns on top of three receptions for 102 yards. He had 210 total yards, and was a workhorse for the Canes all night.
One of the things T.J. Horton brought up postgame was that Frye is new to the program and suggested that he needed to prove himself. He did so, and with vigor.
T.J. Horton — Cartersville
In a game with talent galore, Horton was one of the most electrifying players on the field Saturday.
Horton had six receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns, a ridiculous 26 yards-per-reception average. He and Lawrence connected for an 82-yard deep ball that split two defenders across the middle of the field.
A veteran of Cartersville’s receiving corps, Horton is always a big-play threat, especially since the guy throwing to him can place the ball with pinpoint accuracy. That certainly was on display Saturday.
Jackson Lowe — Cartersville
Jackson Lowe is a glue guy. Joey King said postgame that the offense sometimes calls plays with Lowe in mind. He has a knack for getting open in the middle of the field, the ultimate possession receiver guy that always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Lowe was just that Friday, catching four passes for two touchdowns, both in the first half. He proved his toughness on one of those catches, running a beautiful route to the 1-yard line and getting crushed by a Bartram Trail defender. He fumbled the ball, but had the presence of mind to recover it for a touchdown. It was a big play in a game with a lot of them, and could have swung the game in the other direction given the final score.
In some ways, he is a perfect target for Lawrence — 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, a bruiser and a prototype for a tight end.
A look at the scoreboard at the end of the game would seem to indicate that not much defense was played Saturday. While to some extent that is true, Cartersville’s defenders did rack up some impressive numbers. Nyvin Nelson, as he always seems to be, was one of those players. Nelson recorded 11 tackles and a sack, bouncing all over the field from his linebacker position and delivering big blows. His showiest moment of the night came in a hit of Bartram Trail quarterback Joey Gatewood, as he knocked Gatewood’s helmet off on a rushing play.
Carson Murray also notched double-digit tackles Saturday and had a sack of his own. Murray was stalwart in the middle of the field, shutting things down when Bartram Trail got to the second level. While Cartersville did give up a lot of points Saturday, it also was given a better indication as to who the top contributors of the defense will be this year.
JaCorey Johns’ stat line also runs a line deep — nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and three quarterback pressures. One of those rushes led to a hit that forced a Bartram Trail interception.
Grant Harris also put up big numbers, notching four tackles with 0.5 sacks and a QB hit. That hit came on the last play of the game, with Riley Smith and the Bears needing a score to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Harris, of course, alternates with Dylan Henderson in the middle, and the senior added seven tackles to the cause.
Ahijah Blackwell — Cass
The shifty sophomore dominated the first half as the Colonels built up a big lead. Despite having just four carries, he racked up 50 yards in the half. That included a 33-yarder on his first touch and a brilliant 18-yard touchdown.
On the touchdown, he made a quick spin move to take him around a defender in the middle of the field, somehow staying upright on his way to the end zone. Blackwell didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact in the second half, but finished with seven carries for 58 yards and one catch for six yards.
Cody Henderson, Adairsville — Henderson had two big plays for Adairsville that later led to scores, finishing with two catches for 92 yards.
Christian Steele, Adairsville — Steele was a workhorse for the Tigers, carrying 15 times for 88 yards.
Jonathan Cruz, Cartersville — Cruz was his usual spectacular self, punting twice for 89 yards, sending 8-of-9 kickoffs back for touchbacks, making all seven PATs and adding a 23-yard field goal.