The No. 3 state-ranked Purple Hurricanes, who stoked those fires locally a year ago with a deep run in the state playoffs, will face just such a foe in the Tigers, who are fresh off a 50-6 dismantling of Murphy, a perennial football power from North Carolina that had the misfortune of catching them on a night when they were awesome.
That pounding caught Cartersville head coach Frank Barden’s attention.
“Murphy’s a good program,” Barden said. “They played for the state championship the last three years and won it once and have won multiple state championships in North Carolina, so they’re a very tradition-rich program.
“For Darlington to beat them and beat them that badly just shows that Darlington has an awfully good football team.”
The Tigers are no stranger to the state playoffs, having made them a year ago when their season ended with a loss to Prince Avenue Christian, 42-21.
The defeat of Murphy likely sent those expectations soaring for the Darlington faithful, and Barden said that certainly is understandable.
Just how well did Darlington do?
The Tigers were up three touchdowns after just six minutes and held a commanding 35-0 lead at the break.
They scored the first touchdown with their potent offense, as Darlington unleased a six-play, 66-yard scoring machine that chewed up yardage primarily on the ground.
Their defense notched the team’s second touchdown with an interception that was returned 19 yards. Their third touchdown came off a fumbled lateral pass that was recovered and taken 45 yards.
At least three Darlington players accounted for more than 50 yards on the ground.
Cartersville’s veteran coach said Darlington is capable of moving the ball through the air and on the ground.
“They have a big, tall receiver about 6 foot, 4 inches,” he said. “They’ve got some really quick running backs. They do like to run the ball ... but that doesn’t mean they can’t throw it and don’t have the weapons to throw it.”
Cartersville has not played a game this season but did have some offensive success when it took Woodland’s measure, 34-13, in their scrimmage on Aug. 16.
The Canes’ experienced players accounted for more than 200 yards in the first half of that contest before becoming sideline observers.
Mark Quattlebaum led the aerial show for Cartersville, scoring the Canes’ first two touchdowns and grabbing four passes for 58 yards.
Brooks Barden tossed those bombs for the Canes as he went 9-for-17 for 113 yards in passing, netting three touchdowns in all.
Frank Barden said the jamboree was instructive about more than the Cartersville offensive potential.
“We kind of got in the jamboree what we felt like we’d get,” he said. “Our skill guys played well. Our offensive line did well. That was a bright spot for us. I thought they played well and then defensively I thought we ran to the ball well.
“I think that was probably the thing that stood out for us is how well we ran to the ball on defense. We’re not big in size so we’re going to have to overcome that by being in the right place and playing fast.”
He noted the contest — like the upcoming 7:30 p.m. Friday game — was on the road.
“We went on the road for the jamboree, and that’s always a kind of dress rehearsal for the season,” he said. “The kids responded OK. So you open up on the road with a team that’s just coming off a big win.”
He said the rest depends on how the Canes play. “We’re just going to look and see how we play, see how we get off the bus and how we’re ready to play. But the main thing is how we prepare on Monday through Thursday this week. That is probably our most important thing.”
He said the Canes are ready to face off against opponents rather than one another, too. “We had a good summer of work. We had a good August. Our biggest thing is to be prepared.
“We’re not the team we want to be right now. We hope we get better each week, that our kids go out there and work and get better. Hopefully by using that process over the year, we will develop into a good football team.”