Cartersville's scores came after the Canes blocked one punt -- giving their offense the ball at the 10 -- and a second was partially blocked, going only three yards, and shortened the field for the offense. The first was followed immediately by a 10-yard pass to Hayes Linn from Tyler Will. The second score came after the partial block gave the Canes the ball at their own 42, prompting a four-play drive capped by Brooks Barden hitting Linn for a 22-yard score.
Two of Dalton's scores came from long distance, and the third resulted from a Catamount drive that was capped by a 23-yard pass.
The Cartersville defense gave its offense numerous other scoring opportunities but they weren't converted and Dalton seized the win to advance to the state playoffs.
Head coach Frank Barden said the Canes gave a good effort but did not capitalize on some scoring opportunities and made some ill-timed miscues.
"We scored once but got a holding penalty and that helped turn the game a little bit," Barden said. "Instead of us going up 14-7, they went down on a long run [an 84-yarder by Tre Beck] and they went up 14-7."
Still, he said the Canes left their game on the field.
"Our kids played hard and we battled them," Barden said. "That's all you can ask of your players, that they battle."
Dalton opened scoring when Dante Thomas took the opening kickoff near the 5-yard line and broke through a wall of Cane defenders, then outran the rest on his way to a 95-yard score that put the Catamounts up 7-0 just 15 seconds into the game.
Cartersville's offense drew a blank initially, going three-and-out before punting to Dalton's 30. There the Catamount receiver failed to clamp down on the pigskin and a Cane jarred the ball loose and Matthew Bryson recovered it at the Dalton 30 for Cartersville. The Canes went three-and-out again, but this time Collin Barber punted the ball out-of-bounds at the 5-yard line, the first of two times his foot would pin them that deep in their own territory.
Seven plays later the Catamounts' punt hit a Cane and Cartersville was in business at the Dalton 10. Will immediately hit Linn in the end zone and Preston Slemp knotted the score at 7-all with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Dalton started its next drive at its 20 and moved to the 43, where it finally got a punt off without hitting a Cane in the process; however the ball went just 17 yards and Cartersville once again had excellent field position at its 41.
The Canes made two first downs and appeared to be clicking on all cylinders when they fumbled at the Dalton 29.
The Catamounts responded by taking the ball to the 37 but had to punt again. Once again its punter was rushed and got off a 22-yard effort.
Cartersville responded with a three-and-out drive, but this time Barber was hit as he punted and the penalty breathed new life into the Canes at the Dalton 35.
A quarterback keeper play lost two yards but on the Canes' second play, Elijah Wyndom took a handoff 23 yards to the 14. A second try wasn't as successful, however, and Wyndom lost six yards to the 20. Will then found Linn in the end zone for an apparent score but it was nullified by a holding penalty and the Canes found themselves facing second-and-long at the 31. Will was sacked back at the 46 the next play. Barber's punt then gave the Catamounts the ball at the 16.
From there, Beck broke through the Cane defensive front and somehow eluded would-be tacklers and stabbed the Canes in the heart with an 84-yard touchdown run, allowing Dalton to go into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
Dalton took a commanding lead early in the fourth quarter when a Will pass was intercepted near midfield by Zach Reed. The Catamounts fed the Canes a steady diet of Beck running the ball -- four out of five plays for 15 yards -- and he gave Dalton its biggest lead by hitting Brandon Dale in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown strike. The PAT made it 21-7.
The Canes went three-and-out again after the ensuing kickoff and Dalton advanced to the Cartersville 45 where their punt was partially blocked, resulting in a 3-yard kick.
Cartersville's Brooks Barden opened the drive with two passes, a 9-yarder to Wyndom and a 20-yarder to T.L. Ford, to jump-start the Cane offense. Barden tried a keeper and netted eight yards the next play, then hit Linn in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown strike with 1:29 remaining in the game, closing to 21-14 after the PAT by Slemp.
The Canes tried an onside kick then but the Catamounts recovered it and ran out the clock to claim the victory.
Barden said Cartersville may have lost the game but it gave a winning effort, noting just two touchdowns were scored when the Cane defense was on the field.
"A kickoff return set them up with 7 [points]," he said. "It was a great defensive game. Our kids played hard."
The loss closed out Cartersville's season at 5-5, 3-2 Region 7B-AAA. Friday night's three touchdowns were the most surrendered at home this season by the Canes, who blanked three opponents there, giving up just six points, to Murray County.
With the win Dalton improved to 4-6 on the season, but that record would be richer had it not forfeited four games for using a player later deemed ineligible. The Catamounts, the No. 4 seed in Region 7-AAA, will play at Gainesville, a No. 1 seed in Region 8, on Friday.
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 F
Canes 7 0 0 7 14
Dalton 7 7 0 7 21
Dalton: Dante Thomas 95-yd kickoff return (Julio Mora kick) 11:45
Canes: Hayes Linn 10-yd pass from Tyler Will (Preston Slemp kick) 5:10
Tre Beck 84-yd run (Mora kick) 6:10
Dalton: Brandon Dale 23-yd pass from Tre Bonds (Mora kick) 8:15
Canes: Linn 21 yard pass from Brooks Barden (Slemp kick) 1:29
First downs 7 8
Rushes-yds 24/72 44/204
Passing yds 75 41
Comp-Att-Int 12/24/1 2/5/0
Total yds 147 245
Penalties 4/40 4/50
Fumbles-lost 2 2
Punts-yds 7/276 7/106
Rushing -- Canes: Elijah Wyndom 5/-7, Tyler Will 14/43, Kalin Heath 4/28, Brooks Barden 1/8; Dalton: Tre Bonds 21/65, Cole Calfee 5/8, Matt Cobb 5/14, Tre Beck 11/110, Hunter Cleary 1/0
Passing -- Canes: Tyler Will 8-18-21-1, Brooks Barden 4-6-54-0
Receiving -- Team: Elijah Wyndom 6/7, Hayes Linn 2/32, Trey Graves 1-7, Kalin Heath 1/3, T.L. Ford 2/26; Dalton: Chris Childs 1/7, Brandon Dale 1/29