The contest features two good programs, with Cartersville (5-4, 3-2 in Region 7B-AAA) coming in as the No. 3 seed in its region while Dalton (3-6, 3-2 in Region 7A-AAA) is coming in as a No. 2 seed that was the No. 1 seed until it forfeited four games when the state association ruled it used an ineligible player in those contests.
The two titans of North Georgia high school football will meet at Weinman Stadium in a game that will decide which advances to the state playoffs next week.
“It’s going to be a good ball game featuring two programs that have rich traditions,” head coach Frank Barden said. “These are two communities that are a lot alike. Both support their programs and are very active in their schools. Both communities take ownership and have great pride in their teams.”
He said Cartersville, which made the playoffs a year ago, can expect a challenge across the board.
“First of all, Dalton is a very coached team,” Barden said, “and it is going to be very sound, especially in the play of the offensive line. Their two tailbacks are probably the main focus of their offense. The challenge for us will be to play good assignment football against an option team.
“Defensively they are very well coached and will be where they are supposed to be. They fly around a lot and they have very good, solid players.
“It is a game that has more of the feel of one played deep in the playoffs.”
The squads have put up comparable numbers offensively and defensively during the season.
Cartersville is allowing 9 points per contest while scoring 22 points per outing.
The Canes have hung their hats on their defensive play this season, with that side of the line scoring off turnovers and often providing a short field for its offense to work from. It also blanked two opponents.
Dalton scored almost 26 points per Friday night while allowing 16 points in the five games that counted in its season.
The two teams had several common opponents.
Cartersville defeated Ringgold 21-7 while Dalton took a 28-16 victory over them. Cartersville lost to LaFayette, 35-28, while Dalton won, 30-14. Both lost to Allatoona, the Canes by a 10-0 score while Dalton fell 28-21 in OT.
The Canes are fresh off a 30-0 defeat of Pickens in a contest that Cartersville grabbed a comfortable lead early then assumed command early in the second half.
The Cartersville defense was the early key to the Canes scoring. Cartersville’s defense helped the Canes by wrenching good field position the first series, which resulted in a 46-yard field goal by Collin Barber. Special teams’ Arrick Camps blocked the next Dragon punt and Cartersville was up 10-0. The Cane defense held the Dragons after they gambled at their own 29 the third series, following the turnover with a 45-yard Barber field goal, to go up 13-0.
The Canes offense then got untracked and scored from anywhere on the field as it rambled off 17 points the rest of the way. Kalin Heath scored on an 81-yard run and backup quarterback Brooks Barden later capped a lengthy drive with a 1-yard run.
In the Catamounts’ last game, against Southeast Whitfield, Tre Bonds rushed for 142 yards on 24 carries. Tre Beck had three carries for 13 yards.
Dalton quarterback Cole Calfee was 8-of-13 for 164 yards, with his favorite target Brandon Dale, who caught five passes for 108 yards, the longest a 48-yarder.
The Canes’ offense also can expect a challenge from the Catamounts, with players like Zach Reed, who led the team with 13 tackles against Southeast, and Scott Abernathy, credited with 12.
Coach Barden said the Canes can expect a game-long challenge from the Catamounts tonight with the outcome likely in doubt late.
“With teams like this, it usually boils down to field position and who can make the least number of mistakes,” Barden said. “It’s the kind of game where you have to play your best and just try to find a way to win a close one.”
He added the Canes are glad to be hosting the game: “We are always glad to be at home and feel like it’s going to be a great football game.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.