Although the game does not count against either team’s record, Cartersville gave a promising first impression in its 36-0 victory over Woodland at Cartersville High.
“For the most part I was pleased with our effort,” first-year head coach Joey King said. “I was very pleased with the first half, but not very pleased with the second half, but that’s what film is for. We’re going to watch film and see where we went wrong in the second half and we’re going to get that fixed.”
“We have a lot of work to do. There were a lot of young mistakes,” Woodland head coach Vince DiLorenzo said of his team’s effort. “We can’t simulate their speed in practice. We’re so thin, but I think our guys came out in the second half and third quarter and played much better.”
Cartersville’s offense moved quickly and efficiently in the first half against Woodland’s defense as the Canes scored 23 points in the first 15:30 of the game.
Cartersville unveiled its new fast-paced offense and scored less than two minutes into the game on a 22-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Miller Forristall to running back Kalin Heath. Forristall completed five of his first six passes in the game for 104 yards, including a 44-yard connection with Terrius Callahan on the second play of the game.
“The first half, I thought Miller came out on fire,” King said. “He had a really good drive the first possession. And the second drive, I thought he was good.”
Cartersville came away with a field goal on the second drive of the game. Freshman Trevor Lawrence then saw action in the third and fourth drives, leading Cartersville to touchdowns on each, both on passes to Callahan.
“[Woodland] loaded the box a little bit and they play with inside leverage and cheated to our trips game,” King said of how his offense was effective. “So our backside of trips was there all night, and it payed off when we took advantage of it.”
Each team played its starters during the first three quarters. During that time, Cartersville passed 26 times to 15 rushing attempts.
“My big deal is take what they give you,” King said. “If the pass is there, we’re going to take the pass. If the run is there, we’re going to take the run.”
Meanwhile, Woodland’s first three possessions led to three-and-outs and they accumulated 12 yards over the three series. The defense was encouraging for Cartersville as the team’s speed is undeniable, but stopping the run against physical teams will be critical to the defense’s success this season.
“Defensively, we flew around against a big, physical team. [Woodland has] some big linemen up there and they came out trying to run the football on us,” King said. “That’s the first step in the right direction as far as defense goes, is you have to stop that run and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Woodland’s offense was able to move the chains on two Cartersville penalties on the Wildcats’ fourth possession, and once again on a quarterback run right before the half. Cartersville’s offense stalled on its last possession, resulting in a 23-0 halftime score.
The third quarter saw Woodland’s defense adjust to Cartersville’s speed and Will Costlow intercepted a Trevor Lawrence pass on Cartersville’s first drive of the second half. The Wildcats then mounted a drive on their second possession of the third quarter as they did most of their damage through the air.
Woodland starting quarterback Tanner Self completed four of his first five passes on the drive for 44 yards, taking Woodland down to Cartersville’s 6-yard line. Woodland had only attempted two passes in the first half.
“[Woodland was] going single wing and pounding us, pounding us, and then they switched,” King said of the drive. “They changed right there on us. Once we adjusted, we were fine.”
Cartersville was fine because junior linebacker Tyler Reed stepped in front of a crossing route and picked off a Self pass on a third-and-goal. He then proceeded to run 95 yards for a touchdown, displaying some elusive open-field running. The touchdown made the score 30-0.
“Tyler Reed made a great read and a great run after the catch,” King said. “That’s great anytime the defense can shut them out and score one for you. That was encouraging to see.”
Despite the red zone turnover, DiLorenzo was pleased with the way Woodland moved the ball in the second half.
“We came back in the third quarter and I thought we played better and were able to draw a positive sign,” he said.
Self went 6-for-10 in the game for 44 yards while Grant Robinson shared snaps at quarterback and went 3-for-4 for
Woodland made it apparent early on in the game it would try and establish the run, but the success in the passing game was encouraging to DiLorenzo.
“It’s got to because we have to find a way to move the football,” DiLorenzo said when asked if the passing game may be more prominent in his team’s game plan moving forward. “We’ll have to mix it up with what we’re doing on the ground. Then again, when you have a new offense, it takes so long to learn that it’s hard to do something else. I guess that’s what I’m the head coach for is to figure out a way to be able to do it.”
Woodland’s defense also came on strong at the end of the game as Cartersville did not score an offensive touchdown with its starters in the second half.
“In the second half, we wanted to come out and throw the ball a little more against another team in a live setting, and we stubbed our toe a few times,” King said. “We’ll have to figure out why that happened, but that’s what film is for.”
Cartersville did add a touchdown late in the game thanks to impressive drive by promising freshman running back Evan Williams. Williams led his team down the field on three carries and scored a touchdown from 12 yards out.
Fellow freshman Lawrence completed 8-of-13 passes for 154 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the game while sharing drives with Forristall. The junior Forristall completed 9-of-17 attempts for 89 yards.
“Trevor had a really good first half, and then in the second half, he did some things we have to work on, some decisions at times,” King said of Lawrence. “He made some plays, but decision making from both [quarterbacks], we have to work on.”
For Cartersville, Callahan had five receptions for 130 yards while Malik Mitchell had four catches for 49 yards.
Running back Kalin Heath had 10 carries for 44 yards and two receptions for 45 yards. Junior running back Tiamon Pennymon only carried the ball twice, but made the most of his touches with three catches for 29 yards.
For Woodland’s secondary, Jonathan Applin had two crucial pass breakups that stalled Cartersville drives.
“Guys never quit and I’m proud of them for doing that, and no matter what happened tonight, we’ve got two weeks to prepare for Adairsville and that’s a huge game for us,” DiLorenzo said. “Anytime you play a team of Cartersville’s caliber you’re going to get better if you don’t back down, and we didn’t back down.”
Woodland opens the regular season at Adairsville on Aug. 29, while Cartersville opens the same day at home against Cass.