A SELLOUT CROWD — ESPN was on hand. The stands were packed from afternoon until night. Four Division-I quarterbacks suited up. And Cartersville and Bartram Trail put on an offensive clinic.
This game had been circled in red ink since it was announced, and with all the hype and fanfare, it lived up to it.
It had the noise and feel of a college game — partly because that’s where a good majority of both rosters are headed.
That the home team came out on top only made things sweeter for the fans at Weinman Stadium.
THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS WEATHER — Cartersville/Bartram Trail was supposed to start at 7:30 p.m.. It kicked off 100 minutes later. That’s because the weather had other plans.
Lightning struck again and again and again, resetting a running timer that required the game not start until there were 30 minutes without lightning.
At one point during the delay, the stadium PA played AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which felt a little too much like tempting fate.
PA announcer Jack Howell also refrained from issuing his customary “hurricane warning” out of respect for, not only the lightning delay, but the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Eventually, the skies cleared.
Credit both fanbases for keeping the energy up and not becoming despondent. It turned out to be worth the wait.
BLUE CHIPS — It’s one thing to talk about the quarterbacks for both Cartersville and Bartram Trail in the abstract, comparing rankings and stars and stats. It’s another to watch them on the field.
Joey Gatewood, Riley Smith, and Trevor Lawrence all put on a show Saturday, proving why they are so highly regarded.
Lawrence shone the brightest, connecting with his receivers in tight windows and making plays outside the pocket.
Gatewood displayed his freakish athleticism and ability to improvise, often taking off when his receivers were covered downfield. And Smith provided stability for Bartram Trail when it needed it, driving his team down the field and coming within one play of forcing overtime.
The focus of this game and the one before it was to feature each team’s quarterbacks. In both the early and late games, the signal callers proved why.
Combined, the three Division-I quarterbacks in the game went 46-for-60 for 782 yards passing and eight touchdowns.
HOOPS TO HELMETS — Cody Henderson hasn’t played football in two years, but the senior looks set to make a big impact this year for the Tigers.
Henderson will be the leader of the Adairsville basketball team this year, a year after getting an all-county honorable mention nod for his play on the court. An all-around athlete, he also played baseball for the Tigers, but it’s his basketball skills that have helped him transition well to the football field.
Henderson is fast, strong, and has gained a few inches from last year, when he was a slashing wing for the basketball team. All of those attributes are good for a wide receiver, and Henderson might have already shown that he can be an effective counterpoint to Ethan Belcher, another basketball player who came out for football and was all-county on the gridiron last year.
Against Cass, Henderson had two catches for 92 yards, stretching the field deep on a 54-yard reception from Bryce Burgess in the first half. He showed good playmaking instincts on his second catch, a 38-yarder across the middle of the field from Mason Boswell, breaking a couple of tackles for a big gain on third-and-8.
For someone that inexperienced, the results were very encouraging, especially considering he should have the potential to get better as he gets more comfortable.
“He’s come back to football after a two-year absence, and he’s a little bit behind as far as the playbook goes, but he’s got enough stuff now that we can include him in certain packages,” Adairsville coach Eric Bishop said. “We’ll certainly try to increase his contributions.”
QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS — Friday’s game might have moved both Cass and Adairsville a little bit closer towards answering the big question that has been hanging over each team’s season: who will be the starting quarterback?
For the Colonels, Rett Moore took the majority of snaps and showed that he could, at times, be a threat as both a runner and a passer. He ran for 45 yards and threw for 94. Both Colonel touchdowns came on drives that Moore led, and he played all but one drive in the second half. Moore also displayed a nice touch on the deep ball, throwing a gorgeous 28-yard touchdown to Cameron Gonyea and then hitting Gavin Young for a 55-yard gain in the second half.
Logan Nelson, meanwhile, struggled, going 0-for-7 passing, although one of those was a drop.
For Adairsville, meanwhile, the final answer is looking more and more like it won’t be a definitive answer at all.
“We’re going to keep doing what we do,” Bishop said after Mason Boswell and Bryce Burgess again split time under center. “This is what this team is about. Mason and Bryce, if Bryce isn’t at quarterback, he’s running slot for us, so they just want what’s best for this football team. They’ve taken the whole competition thing only to make each other better, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t expect that we’re going to go down to one quarterback.”
That came after Adairsville’s offense had mostly come alive with Boswell at quarterback. The Tigers scored 22 of their 29 points with Boswell under center, but Burgess did have his moments, including completions of 29 yards to Chris Rodriguez and 54 yards to Henderson.