The Purple Hurricanes positioned themselves for that closing by defeating Sonoraville, 53-9, in high school football action Friday night.
Brooks Barden went 19-of-23 for 322 yards and five touchdowns and Cartersville scored two touchdowns by using the ground route while the Cane defense threw in two safeties and caused two turnovers in its dominating victory.
The Phoenix were unable to mount a game-long challenge to Cartersville but they did throw a scare into their hosts, scoring nine consecutive points — one a touchdown after an interception and the second a field goal that capped a drive that was jump-started by a successful onside kick.
The Canes responded with 16 unanswered points.
Cartersville head coach Frank Barden noted the Canes responded to the challenge.
“That’s what you want to see,” Barden said. “You want to see if the kids can respond to it. It’s going to happen.”
Cartersville took charge against Sonoraville early, taking just two plays from scrimmage to score after holding the Phoenix to one first down in the game’s initial series.
Cartersville opened its play with an offsides penalty and Barden threw two quick strikes — the first a 28-yard chain-mover to Trase Fezzia and the second a 32-yard touchdown connection to Gordon Gray — and the home team had a 7-0 lead after Zach Edwards capped the score with a point-after kick, the first of seven he would make on the night.
The Canes put the ensuing kickoff at the Phoenix 16 and then held Sonoraville to a three-and-out. They then got a gift when the Phoenix sent the ball over their punter on its way out of the end zone, giving the Canes a 9-0 lead with 7:40 showing on the first-quarter clock.
A half a minute later Barden fired a 58-yard touchdown pass to Kalin Heath to give the Canes a 16-0 lead and they upped that score to 23-0 on a 38-yard run by Tiamon Pennymon.
Barden then capped a seven-play drive with his second touchdown pass to Gray, an 11-yarder, and closed out the first quarter with a 30-0 lead.
Cartersville quickly added to its tally in the second quarter as Barden directed a five-play drive that covered 61 yards and TL Ford lit up the scoreboard lights with an 8-yard TD pass reception as his team pushed on to a 37-0 lead.
Sonoraville was then held to a three-and-out series and looked like it was about to fold when the Phoenix turned the tables on the Canes as defensive tackle Kenny Cooper stepped in front of a Barden pass and returned the interception to the Canes’ 25.
A penalty against Cartersville advanced the ball to the 13 and a play later Sonoraville scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run by quarterback Cody Long. The PAT try was blocked but the Phoenix had closed the contest to 37-6.
Sonoraville gambled on its ensuing kickoff and won, recovering its onside kick at Cartersville’s 41-yard line. Seven plays later, the Phoenix hit a 39-yard field goal and closed the score to 37-9 with 46 seconds left until the break.
After the break Cartersville responded with a five-play drive that was capped with Pennymon’s second touchdown run of the night, a 29-yarder that helped push the score to 44-9.
The Canes followed that up with a Barden-to-Ford 4-yard touchdown strike as they went up 51-9 with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter.
The Canes’ defense then helped their cause with an interception by Trevor Carlton just before the frame ended.
Cane defenders also added a safety with 6:24 left in the game, to conclude scoring at 53-9.
The game marked the return of the Canes to Weinman Stadium after a three-week absence.
“It was a good win and it was good to be back home,” Barden said.
With the victory Cartersville improved its record to 9-0, 6-0 in Region 5-AAA.
It is the eighth consecutive game in which the Canes have scored more than 40 points. The Canes scored their smallest amount of points against Darlington, which they defeated 36-0.
Sonoraville fell to 3-6, 3-3 in the region.
Cartersville returns to the gridiron Friday night, when it hosts Ringgold.
Barden expects a challenge but said the Canes are trying to get ready for another big game with Ringgold.
“Our line is getting better,” he said. “Our passing game has been steady. Our running game is improving and that’s been difficult because we’ve had to rotate backs. Defensively we’re playing hard and running to the ball. All that is very important. I think we’re doing some good things. It’s going to be a big week for us.”
The Phoenix close out their regular season against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe on Friday night.
Kickoff for both games is 7:30 p.m.