Veteran Canes coach Frank Barden did not seem to mind the travel but acknowledged, “It’s gonna be good for us to be back at home, though.”
The team’s second Region 7B-AAA game against the Bobcats on Friday begins a stretch of four home games in the final five weeks of the season for Cartersville.
“It’s real important,” Barden said of the matchup between two teams coming off losses last Friday. “One, you’re in the sub-region; two, you’re at home. It’s gonna be important for us … to start putting some good play together.”
Thus far, the Canes have been unable to get on the kind of roll they had last year when they began this 4-0 until a Week 6 loss to the Buccaneers. Prior to this year’s post-bye, 10-0 loss to Allatoona, Cartersville had been shut out at Pepperell, 12-0; defeated visiting Darlington, 24-0; dropped a thriller at LaFayette, 35-28; and closed out the Tigers in Tennessee, 21-7.
While the team’s results have been inconsistent, its defense has been rather steady. The Canes defense enters its sixth game of the season yielding 12 points per game. Cartersville will be tested by a Gilmer team that likes to run the ball nearly as much as the Bucs, who rushed 40-plus times last week — including 30 carries and 217 yards from running back Miles Jones.
Besides the absence of a talent like Jones — not many teams have all-state running backs — the Bobcats also differ from Allatoona in terms of alignment.
“They’re gonna run a mixture of the Wing T and the option. They are gonna primarily run the ball,” Barden said. “One’s in the I [formation], one’s in the Wing T, but they are two teams that like to run the football. A big focus is to continue to get better on defense. I feel like we’ve played well on defense.”
“That’s gonna be their game plan — to keep the ball and get long drives. It’s gonna be important defensively to get three-and-outs … and it’s gonna be important for us offensively to take advantage of [good field position],” he continued. “It’s a well-coached team. It’s a team that’s gonna line up and be fundamentally sound. They were a playoff team last year. … They got beat last week, but the week before they beat Ridgeland.”
Gilmer, which was blown out 46-6 last Friday at Cedartown, should be salivating at the opportunity to right some wrongs when it steps back on the field this week.
Likewise, the Canes should be just as eager following their second shutout loss of the season. Though Cartersville’s 16th-year head coach mentioned the importance of forcing three-and-outs and winning the field-position battle behind kicker Preston Slemp and punter Collin Barber, he noted that the Canes must prove they can move the ball and pick up first downs and score points.
“What’s probably plagued us all year is consistency on offense,” Barden said. “The bottom line is we gotta put some points on the board.”
Cartersville enters its game with the Bobcats averaging 14 points per game. Against the Bucs, the Canes were not as anemic as they were in their season-opening, shutout defeat to the Dragons, even getting 61 yards of 12 carries from Kalin Heath.
However, there is still room for improvement for Cartersville.
“Defensively, we’ve played well this year. Our big focus, as always, is [to] get our game plan but, still, you focus on yourself and making sure you’re improving and correcting any mistakes you made the week before,” Barden said.
The Canes (2-3, 0-1) and Gilmer (3-2, 0-1) are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Weinman Stadium.