Meeting at a McDonald’s in Covington, located halfway between the two schools, coach Barden was all smiles during the ride back home after Bulldogs’ coach Milan Turner called heads and then watched the coin turn up tails.
By virtue of winning the coin toss, the Canes will be playing their third straight playoff game at Weinman Stadium.
Georgia High School Association rules dictate that a coin toss will determine who will be the host team when two teams with equal seeds meet during the state playoffs.
Cartersville is the No. 1 seed out of Region 5-AAA, while Thomson is the No. 1 seed out of Region 3-AAA. The Canes (12-0) advanced to the quarterfinal round with home victories over the Jackson County Panthers and the Blessed Trinity Titans. The Bulldogs (12-0) will travel to Cartersville Friday night after defeating Jackson High School, 27-3, and Johnson-Savannah, 35-19.
“Having home field advantage once again is definitely an advantage,” Barden said. “The kids love playing at home. We will once again have great fan support. There’s going to be a lot of excitement this coming Friday night.”
HANGING ON: With the scored tied 7-7 early in the second quarter, Cartersville’s Kobie Whitfield was all that stood in the way of the Blessed Trinity Titans scoring a go-ahead touchdown. A razzle-dazzle play that involved a short pass completion and a lateral on third-and-9 at the Canes’ 19-yard line completely fooled Cartersville’s defense. Except Whitfield, who reached out, grabbed a piece of a white jersey and hung on until defensive help arrived. The Titans picked up a first down on the play. But on first-and-goal at the Canes’ 9-yard line, defensive back Mark Quattlebaum intercepted a Spencer McManEs pass in the end zone to thwart the potential scoring drive.
TURNOVER FRENZY: Quattlebaum’s interception was one of three passes that were picked off by Cartersville’s opportunistic defense. It was 17-7 Canes when running back Brandon Long scored on a 12-yard touchdown run two plays after Arrick Camps’ interception at the Titans’ 20-yard line. Cartersville’s third interception, this one by linebacker Brandon Wells, negated a fake field goal attempt by the Titans in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Along with the three interceptions, the Canes’ recovered three Blessed Trinity fumbles. Cartersville had four fumbles of its own, but fortunately managed to recover them all. While quarterback Brooks Barden was held in check most of the game by the Titans’ secondary, his best statistic must might have been his zero interceptions.
DRIVE OF DRIVES: At 5:03 of the fourth quarter, Blessed Trinity took a 21-17 lead on McManes’ 1-yard quarterback keeper. At 4:56, Cartersville began is do-or-die drive at its own 25-yard line. At 3:05 of the fourth quarter, the Canes were one play away from having their playoff run come to end. It was fourth-and-10 at the Titans’ 27-yard line. At 2:46, Cartersville’s home crowd was counting its blessings as the Canes picked up a first down on an 11-yard pass completion to wide receiver Gordon Gray. At 2:25, Barden’s 20-yard pass to Hayes Linn on third-and-15 gave the Canes a first-and-goal at the Titans’ 1-yard line. Cartersville took a 24-21 lead on Barden’s 1-yard quarterback keeper with 2:12 remaining.
FINAL STOP: Right after Barden scored the Canes’ go-ahead touchdown, he immediately went over to the defensive unit and emphatically reminded them there was still two minutes to play; 2:07 to be exact when Blessed Trinity got the ball back at its 30-yard line. Methodically led by McManes, the Titans proceeded to march deep into Cartersville territory. With the game clock winding down to less than 10 seconds to play, Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin sent in his field goal unit to kick a potential game-tying field goal. Then came the play that will be forever talked about. Instead of kicking the field goal, McFarlin opted to go for the win, all the while anticipating that Cartersville’s special team’s unit would go all out in its attempt to block the kick. The only problem with that thinking was that Wells stayed back in coverage, and put himself in perfect position to break Blessed Trinity’s hearts. Cartersville was penalized for excessive celebration following his interception with 2 seconds remaining. Setting up at its own 2-yard line, Barden was more than happy to take a safety with 0:00 showing on the game clock.
PLAYOFF TICKETS: Advance playoff tickets for Friday night’s state playoff game between the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes and the Thomson Bulldogs at Weinman Stadium will go on sale at the Storm Center on Wednesday, Nov. 28, and Thursday, Nov. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $12 per ticket. All individuals of school age or older must present a ticket to enter the game. Only GHSA passes will be accepted at the gate. Reserved seats are good until 7:10 p.m. After that time, the reserved seating section will be open to all. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.