With Cartersville coach Frank Barden and Cass coach Rick Casko now gone after a combined 29 seasons with their respective programs, a new chapter in the rivalry will begin today at Cartersville High.
“Having been here for a couple of years, I’ve learned to embrace the rivalry and what it means for the community,” Cass first-year head coach Bobby Hughes said. “I’m sure [Cartersville head coach Joey King] is just as excited as I am for a new season to kick off with a game of this kind of rivalry that gets the community involved. It makes it that much more exciting, so we’re looking forward to it.”
“I’m excited for the kids. The excitement for me comes from those guys being able to go out there and play one that counts,” King said of the game. “We played our scrimmage and you don’t get any points from a scrimmage game. It doesn’t go on your record, but this is the one that counts. This one matters. It’s what we’ve been working for, so I’m excited for those guys to go and play one that counts and play under the lights.”
The series has continued off and on over the last 58 years and the teams have played each other 45 times over that span. Cartersville won the first 21 matchups from 1956 to 1982, with Cass picking up its first victory against its crosstown rival in 1983.
The two program’s most recent game came last year when Cartersville beat Cass by a score of 42-7 in each team’s second game of the 2013 season.
Overall, Cartersville is 39-5 in series history against Cass and has won the last four meetings with the last loss to the Colonels coming in 2007.
The Colonels had their greatest run of success from 1994 to 1997 when they won three of four matchups with the Canes.
King believes the long history between the schools will help promote a spirited environment that will resemble a playoff game, which will prepare his team for later in the season.
“We look forward to having a big crowd turnout,” King said. “It’ll be a playoff atmosphere, so that’s what were trying to accomplish with the first three non-region games,” King said.
Despite the history, with new coaches leading each team, neither Cass nor Cartersville is too familiar with its opponent Friday night.
“You want to prepare your kids to the best of your ability, but all we have to go on is their one scrimmage,” Hughes said. “We exchanged film, but with two new coaches, everything is not going to be the same.”
Also contributing to the unfamiliarity is that Cartersville lost 10 senior starters off of last season’s team while Cass lost 11. Cass lost five of its offensive lineman that started last season’s Cartersville game and several defensive players. Nine of those 11 departed senior starters signed to college football programs. Two of those players were defensive ends Justin Reed and Montavius Parker, who put as much pressure on Cartersville quarterback Brooks Barden as any team a year ago.
Cartersville also was hit hard by graduations, including losing all-state quarterback Barden and a trio of receivers that accounted for over 1,600 receiving yards last year in T.L. Ford, Mark Quattlebaum and Gordon Gray. The Canes also lost several important pieces of their defense, including all-county members Alex Barnes, Devin Henderson and Quattlebaum.
In addition to the rivalry and seeing how young players will adapt to their new roles, the game also will provide the first real picture as to where each team stands.
Cass posted a 4-6 record and went 2-3 in Region 7A-AAAA last year. Five teams from Cass’ subregion in 2013 are now in Cartersville’s Region 7-AAAA. Cass is now in Class AAAAA.
“I didn’t make the schedule, but we came into it and that’s kind of the deal coach Barden tried to accomplish is play some big and physical teams, larger schools than us early in the season to try to give us that playoff atmosphere, and Cass will provide that playoff atmosphere,” King said.
Cass is moving down a classification for the game, but Hughes is looking forward to the quality of competition that Cartersville provides.
“I know for us to build our program to where we want to be, we have to play teams like Cartersville,” Hughes said.
Both coaches will agree that the rivalry is fun for the fans, but the game is mostly significant because it will help prepare each team for region play.
“We tell the kids, week in and week out, we don’t try to get too hyped for one opponent,” King said. “We play ourselves every week. If we take care of the ball and block and tackle and be where we’re supposed to be, we feel good about our chances, but we’re not going to get overhyped for one opponent and not another. We’re going to take it one week at a time.”