The post-Trevor Lawrence era has officially started.
For the first time since 2013, a quarterback other than Lawrence opened a game in the shotgun formation for Cartersville. And contrary to some doomsday theorists, the world kept spinning.
Sure, it was only a scrimmage. But junior Tee Webb showed plenty of promise attempting to plug the impossible to fill hole Lawrence left when he moved on to Clemson after completing arguably the greatest career in the history of Georgia high school football.
Webb and the Canes began life after Lawrence with a 35-7 victory over Dalton on the road Friday night at Harmon Field.
“I was proud of our kids,” Cartersville head coach Joey King said. “I thought they fought hard. For the most part, we played pretty clean, as far as penalties go and being disciplined. Proud of that.
“Not proud of our red-zone efficiency. The offense got down there three times and didn’t score, and then with the twos, coming out of the end zone. We have to handle the ball a little bit better in those situations.”
Other than the poor execution in the red zone, Cartersville moved the ball well against Dalton, which finished 7-4 last year in Class 6A.
Webb completed 15-of-24 passes for 169 yards. He also snuck in for a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Webb started off well before a slight lull to end the first half, but he came out of halftime strong, going 4-for-5 after the break.
It’s clear Webb will be leaning on senior tight end and Tennessee commit Jackson Lowe, at least early on in the season. The duo connected five times for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“Tee’s got to get to where he doesn’t just look for Jackson all the time,” King said. “I thought the times he had Jackson, he took him. He sat on him one time when he should have thrown another ball, but other than that he did a really good job going through his progressions and trusting his coaching.
“Again, I was really proud of him, and he came out of the gate on fire. That was really fun to see.”
Otherwise, Webb spread the ball around with four other players hauling in, at minimum, two passes. Among that group was senior running back Marcus Gary, who finished with 88 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards.
The offense often exploited the Catamounts on play-action passes and screens, although a couple of drops cost the Canes even more yardage.
Again, though, the biggest issue for Cartersville came in the red zone, especially inside the 5-yard line. King will hope the night was a fluke, but in a good way, it gives the team something to focus on heading into the regular-season opener against Allatoona next Friday at Weinman Stadium.
Cartersville’s opening series ended with a turnover on downs following three straight carries by Gary inside the 6-yard line. He atoned with a 35-yard scoring run on a 3rd-and-1 play the ensuing drive.
The Canes took the 7-0 advantage into the second quarter before Webb used a nice pump-fake to free Lowe for a 23-yard touchdown.
A fumble recovery by junior Marquail Coaxum, one of the veterans for a largely inexperienced defense, put Cartersville in prime position to score again. However, another red zone opportunity went begging with a second turnover on downs.
After just missing a touchdown pass to Coaxum on the final play of the first half, Webb led Cartersville’s third scoring drive to open the third quarter.
Two short completions, two short runs and the short-yardage burrow from Webb put the Canes up 21-0. The team, though, squandered a chance for another touchdown from the 1-yard line later in the quarter with a fumbled snap being recovered by Dalton.
It was yet another fumble — this one pounced on in the end zone — that gifted the Catamounts their lone score of the evening. Although, that cough up came from the Cartersville reserves in the fourth quarter.
The backups still showed promise for the Canes.
Sophomore Evan Slocum easily guided the second-string offense down the field, capping the sequence with a touchdown pass to Amari Orr. Quante Jennings wrapped up the scoring with a short run in the final minutes.
While the offense went through the, frankly, anticiapted ups and downs, Cartersville’s defense showed no ill effects of replacing a vast majority of the unit.
Isaiah Chaney and La’Kwayme Jupiter, who recovered a fumble, impressed up front and Coaxum shined on the outside. The most impressive performance came from a linebacking core that has been a bit of a question mark.
Sunni Moorehead and Harrison Allen, in particular, showed promise, each hearing their name called a handful of times by the Dalton PA announcer.
“The more those guys play, the more confident they’re going to get,” King said of the linebackers.
Overall, King will head into the Canes’ first regular-season game with a positive feeling about where his team is currently.
“Overall, I’m pleased,” he said. “I thought our defense flew around, played a really good game. I thought Tee did a really good job. He made some big throws for us. A couple of opportunities we’d like to have back. For a scrimmage, I’m definitely pleased.”
So while the first test without Lawrence and his built-in cheatsheet has been passed, it should be considered more of a trial run — the practice exam before the real thing. That real thing comes next week when the Allatoona Buccaneers come to town.
“What you saw tonight were two class programs learning from each other,” King said. “There’s a lot that tape is going to teach us, and there’s a lot that tape is going to teach them. So we’re going to take it, learn from it and hope to be better because of it.”