The visitors from Bartow County fell behind 17-0 in the first half with Rome's dynamo running back Jamie Cooper exploding for more than 100 yards.
Cass coach Rick Casko said his team, which was forced to employ its third-string defensive end, was well aware of the Wolves' speed on the corners.
"They got really good foot speed," Casko said. "Early [on], they got on the edge, and when they got on the edge, they ran away from [our defensive end]. They ran to that spot, which was what they saw from the press box, I'm sure."
Rome tested the Colonels on the perimeter from the start, with Cooper toting the mail six times for 66 yards on its first possession, which included a 22-yard run to the left out of the "Wild Wolf" formation as well as a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Wolves ahead 7-0 at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter.
On Rome's next possession, Cooper appeared to have scored again, this time from 57 yards out, before a holding penalty brought the play back. Despite drawing Cass offside a few plays later on fourth-and-2 from the Colonels 35-yard line, the Wolves settled for a 30-yard Bryan Mijanos field goal, which pushed the lead to 10-0 with 8:08 remaining in the half.
With Cass able to cross Rome's side of the field just once on its five first-half possessions, the Wolves had ample opportunity to add to their lead, which they did after winning the field-position battle and getting the ball on the Colonels' side of the field. Cooper burst up the middle with the ball and was drug down at the 1 on his 41-yard run. Backup quarterback Bo Tucker finished off the two-play drive with a sneak to give Rome a 17-0 lead with 1:57 left in the half.
"Cooper, he's a great running back. He's a senior [and] he's a heck of an athlete. We knew we had to try to stop that from happening. For the most part, we kept 'em in check; they had to drive the football," said Casko, whose team forced the Wolves to go 72 yards in nine plays and 43 yards in 15 plays on their first two scores. "We just didn't get anything started offensively because ... they came off the football. They were whacking us. We still haven't obtained our full identity on offense. We're so young on the line. ... I believe on offense we've got one starting football player that ever played.
"We know we're gonna have to deal with this. We're not in any towel-throwing-in [mode], nothing like that, but these kids have to understand the future is gonna be good. It's just that we have to play and play hard, and we can't make mistakes. We had a couple of bad snaps. In shotgun, you can't have a bad snap on first down; now we're in second-and-15. ... In the spread, you can't get yourself in bad situations.
"We cannot make mistakes. We can't give up a big play, and we can't miss or turn the ball over. ... It doesn't work for us 'cause we're not gonna be able to take the ball and just drive it on you yet. Our linemen are so young, so we have to move the ball around to different people, and Brandon's [Etheridge] doing a great job at quarterback. Yeah, you gotta take your hat off to that kid."
In the second half, the Colonels demonstrated why their head coach feels so good about his team's future as sophomore quarterback Brandon Etheridge moved them into the red zone four times, including two scores. On fourth-and-3 from the Rome 4, Etheridge rolled out to the right, found no free-roaming receivers and scrambled back to the middle of the field, slipping through some Wolves defenders before finding receiver Jordan Cothron in the back of the end zone for a TD. That score made it 24-7 with 4:32 to play in the third.
Cass' final possession of the game also resulted in a score as Etheridge's fourth-and-1 completion to Blake Kirk, a 16-yarder, set up his 5-yard run with 51 seconds to provide the final margin.
"If you watched the game, I mean, we really, really hung in there. [The] defense played hard and they had to earn things," Casko said.
The Colonels held the Rome offense without a point in the third quarter, forcing two fumbles -- one by Cooper and another by starting QB Chad Barton -- but an inopportune miscue allowed the Wolves to add to their lead anyway.
After Cooper's fumble, Cass began its first possession of the second half at the Rome 35. Following a 6-yard gain by Etheridge on fourth-and-5, the Colonels erred as a pass to the sideline had no other target with the exception of Wolves defensive back LaDrell Cammon, who returned his second interception of the night 83 yards to give his team a 24-0 lead at the 8:47 mark of the third quarter.
"It was a mishap of a play. It was a misread play and it's a shame that it happened, but it should've been a touchdown and [instead] it's a touchdown the other way," Casko said. "We were climbing back."
In the fourth quarter, Rome added two touchdowns, one a 75-yard gallop at the 10:01 mark from Cooper on another two-play drive, and the second the final play of an 11-play drive -- which featured three holding penalties on the Wolves -- as Myron Washington reached paydirt from 24 yards on third-and-23.
Though Cass could benefit from quicker starts -- it also fell behind in its season-opening loss to Woodland -- Casko said his team has to continue to gain knowledge from each Friday night contest.
"It's a young team. ... Remember, they have nothing to draw from," he continued. "They played freshmen football [last year], and they won here [in Rome]. They won against the freshmen, but those aren't the guys that were [on] the freshmen team they were playing tonight.
"What we gotta do is we just gotta keep coaching positively. We know the future is good. The only way to do it [improve] is you keep learning and playing football."
The Colonels (0-2, 0-2 Region 7-AAAA) head to Johns Creek (2-0, 2-0) for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday while Rome (1-1, 1-1) hosts Woodland (2-0, 2-0) at 8 p.m.
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 F
CAS 0 0 7 7 14
ROM 7 10 7 14 38
ROM -- Jamie Cooper 5-yd run (Bryan Mijanos kick), 5:22
ROM -- Mijanos 30-yd FG, 8:08
ROM -- Bo Tucker 1-yd run (Mijanos kick), 1:57
ROM -- LaDrell Cammon 83-yd interception return (Mijanos kick), 8:47
CAS -- Jordan Cothron 4-yd pass from Brandon Etheridge (Guadalupe Rangel kick), 4:32
ROM -- Cooper 75-yd run (Mijanos kick), 10:01
ROM -- Myron Washington 24-yd run (Mijanos kick), 3:20
CAS -- Etheridge 5-yd run (Rangel kick), 0:51
First downs 16 14
Rushes-yds 20-96 34-280
Passing yds 222 73
Comp-Att-Int 19-33-2 5-8-0
Total yds 318 353
Penalties 9-55 5-45
Fumbles-lost 2-0 3-2
Punts-yds 4-96 1-37
Rushing -- Cass: Kelin Wells 9-63, Brandon Etheridge 9-17-1, Jordan Cothron 1-10, Loren Drayton 1-6; Rome: Jamie Cooper 16-206-2, Myron Washington 3-46-1, Bo Tucker 9-19-1, Bobby McCrary 2-13, Chad Barton 2-5, Jordan McClure 1-(-4), Marquell Moore 1-(-5).
Passing -- Cass: Etheridge 19-33-222-1-2; Rome: Barton 5-7-37-0-0, Tucker 1-1-36-0-0.
Receiving -- Cass: Cothron 6-84-1, Blake Kirk 3-58, Wells 6-48, Najae Jackson 1-14, Andrew Hunt 2-9, Drayton 1-9; Rome: Davontea Mallett 1-36, McClure 1-16, Cooper 2-14, McCrary 1-7.