Webb forges own path to lead Canes to title game

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Tee Webb entered the 2018 season with a truly impossible task. The Cartersville junior would be stepping into the starting quarterback role vacated by the country's No. 1 football recruit, Trevor Lawrence.

How does one go about replicating the production of arguably the greatest player to wear the purple and gold? For Webb, it was simple: Don't try to be Trevor.

“Just try to play my game and not worry about filling shoes or people asking me if I’m trying to be the next Trevor,” Webb said Monday. “Just play my game, and play one play at a time. That’s pretty much all year what coach [Joey] King has been telling me. It’s nice having him around.”

It was well-known King and Lawrence had a tight bond. The two entered the program at the same time, as Lawrence started almost exclusively throughout his four years with the Canes. It meant 2018 would represent an adjustment period for King, as well.

His message, though, to Webb was to not attempt to emulate what Lawrence was able to do. While both are pass-first quarterbacks, asking Webb to try to make the same plays, the same throws that Lawrence did every Friday night would be asking too much — even for a Division-I recruit like Webb.

All he's done since making his first career start in the season opener against Allatoona is go 14-0 and guide Cartersville to the Class 4A state championship game against Blessed Trinity at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

According to MaxPreps, Webb has completed 58.6 percent of his passes, while dealing with some costly drops, over the course of the season. He has 35 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. A three-star recruit based on 247Sports' Composite ranking, Webb has added four rushing scores this year.

There have been times when the Canes have leaned more heavily on the run game this season. However, Webb has made the key throws when necessary.

His play of the season came with Cartersville trailing Marist 14-10 in the state semifinals. Early in the fourth quarter, the Canes faced a third-and-long. Webb avoided the initial rush, stepped up in the pocket and unleashed a bullet pass, as he got drilled by a defender.

The resulting touchdown by Devonte Ross proved to be the difference in the tightly contested game. Maybe more impressive than the play itself was the ability for Webb to shake off the four turnovers he had at that point of the night to make a throw when his team needed him the most.

That was a pretty Trevor-esque play. It's the kind of throw that will ensure — no matter what happens Wednesday or during his senior year — Webb's name will be mentioned alongside the greatest Cartersville quarterbacks.

Even though he doesn't try to mimic what Lawrence brought to the table, that doesn't mean Webb didn't try to learn lessons from watching the current Clemson quarterback at work.

“It’s a very special group of guys,” Webb said of the former Canes QBs. “It was amazing to learn from Trevor and see what he could do. Trevor is a freak of nature, basically. It was just really cool to be in that environment with him, really learn from him and take as much as I could from him.”

Webb said Lawrence gave him some guidance. It's the same basic words King has echoed, and it's words that Webb has taken to heart.

“‘Don’t try to be somebody you’re not,'” Webb said of Lawrence’s advice to him. “‘Just be yourself and everything will take care of itself from there.’”

The mantra has worked, so far. With an offense averaging 38 points and 348 yards per game, Cartersville has certainly been clicking under the tutelage of Webb.

Perhaps most incredibly, the offense has been performing so well with a virtually entirely new group of starters. Obviously, replacing Lawrence was the focus of several naysayers, but that discounts the graduation of the team's five offensive linemen, three leading receivers and starting running back. 

“They’ve kind of all helped each other, and that’s what’s been special about this group,” King said. “It’s not every man for himself; it’s every man for each other. They’ve done a good job of fighting for each other, encouraging each other along the way. … They’re all in this together.”

They'll all be on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday to compete for the program's third state title in the past four years. Lawrence was the catalyst for those two prior groups, but he won't be available for the Canes to lean upon this time.

Webb will be the one who has the pressure fall onto his shoulders. If his production to this point is any indication, the next in the pantheon of outstanding Cartersville signal-callers seems poised for the challenge.

And it's all because he hasn't tried to live up to the lofty standard of the deity who came before him.

“He’s done well. We’re super proud of him,” King said of Webb. “I think he’s gotten better as the season has gone. He’s gotten more confident in his ability and in his teammates’ [ability]. It’s been cool to see that offensive unit jell together the way they have, especially these last few weeks.

“But super proud of him. Not everybody could handle that, to step in after Trevor. We’ve said from Day 1, ‘We want Tee to be Tee.’ I think he’s done a great job of that all year for us.”