That potential run starts tonight at Weinman Stadium as the Purple Hurricanes take on the West Hall Spartans.
“It’s going to be a challenge for our football team, this first one against West Hall, and we just have to prepare for it and go out and see how we do,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “They’re a very athletic team. I think they’re a good football team, a well-coached team. I think they’re a team that has had a good year and has done a good job making the best of their opportunities in their games.”
West Hall is 6-4 this season and finished fourth in Region 7-AAA with a 4-3 record. The Spartans faced Dawson County High last week in what was practically an elimination game. West Hall won by a score of 10-7 to move on to the playoffs while Dawson County fell one game short.
Cartersville had a similar playoff-like atmosphere in its last game as the Canes defeated Ringgold, 33-16, to claim the Region 5-AAA championship.
“I thought it was a good game. It was a fun night for the kids,” Barden said. “It was their senior night and it was a big game for the region championship. I feel like our kids prepared well and went out and played with a lot of emotion and played very well.”
Barden is hoping for a similar performance against West Hall. One of the Spartans’ top players is senior Hunter Atkinson, who is listed as the 11th-ranked tight end prospect in the class of 2014 and 28th-ranked overall prospect in Georgia by 247sports.com.
“They have a big tight end, a big defensive end that plays both sides and is about 6-foot-6, 260. He’s a good player, one of the good recruits in the state,” Barden said. “They’re a Wing-T team from the [shot]gun. They’re a big defense with a lot of good players.”
Helping Cartersville’s chances of stopping the Spartan players will be the fact that the game will be played at Cartersville High. By defeating Ringgold, the Canes set themselves up well for a playoff run and securing the top seed in the region will likely increase their chances.
“I think that they wanted to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs,” Barden said of his players’ reaction to winning the region. “That’s more of the thing that you gain by being the No. 1 team in the region, is having the opportunity to be at home in the playoffs.”
Cartersville also took away some confidence from the Ringgold game, especially in the run game. Barden feels comfortable that his team will be difficult to game plan against because it can run and pass effectively.
“It was just really what they gave us,” he said of his team’s emphasis on the run against Ringgold. “The good thing about this team is we feel like, with our line of scrimmage and our backs, we can run it, and with our wide receivers, we can throw it.
“We can be balanced and basically do what we need to do to try to win the game.”
The Canes have displayed a balanced offensive attack this season, averaging nearly 246 passing yards and 188 rushing yards per game.
To win the game against West Hall, Cartersville must be balanced on offense, but also stay focused on the task at hand. The goal is to advance further than the second round, but Barden believes his team has understood the mentality of taking one game at a time the entire season.
“That’s the whole idea behind the mentality that we had way back in August, that you want to take it one game at a time and that’s where it comes from, the playoffs,” he said. “It’s really a mentality that you have to have because if you win, you move on. I you lose, you go home.”