December 8, 2012

Cartersville leads early, but falls in 3A semis

Cartersville’s football season came to a painful close with the Purple Hurricanes’ 21-10 loss to the Buford Wolves Friday night at Weinman Stadium.

The pain of not playing for the Class 3A state championship could be seen in all the tears that flowed freely from numerous Cartersville players — both on the field and in the locker room — who for the past 13 weeks had grown accustomed to winning.

Instead it will be Buford (11-3) who will play St. Plus X (12-2) — a 31-6 winner against North Hall on Friday — for the title next week at the Georgia Dome.

What will be forever remembered about Game 14 of Cartersville’s 2012 season is that the Hurricanes (13-1) led 10-0 before two costly turnovers turned the game in Buford’s favor.

“We played our hearts out, but we just didn’t execute well in key situations,” coach Frank Barden said as he watched players and fans console one another.  

The somber scene that took place was something Cartersville’s home crowd could not imagine happening after Preston Slemp kicked a 20-yard field goal in the first quarter and quarterback Brooks Barden and wide receiver Mark Quattlebaum connected for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

“We came out early and got after them,” Barden said.

Slemp’s field goal finished the opening drive of the first Class 3A state semifinal game ever played at Weinman Stadium. Using a no-huddle offense, the Hurricanes marched from their 15-yard line to the Wolves’ 3-yard line before coach Barden sent in his field goal unit with 7:39 left in the first quarter.

Cartersville extended its lead thanks to two key pass receptions by Kalin Health and two costly Buford penalties. The Hurricanes’ last scoring drive of the season started at their own 34-yard line with 6:46 remaining in the second half. Nobody knew at the time, but the Hurricanes would not score again following Quattlebaum’s touchdown reception at the 5:38 mark of the quarter.

Then came the turning point in the game — and the season — for both teams.

“We got off to a real good start, but it’s real hard to take what happened,” Cartersville offensive lineman Wyndham Laye said.

Still holding a 10-0 lead with a little more than three minutes remaining before halftime, the Hurricanes passed on second-and-7 at their own 18 — and groans reverberated throughout the stadium when Buford’s Korie Rogers intercepted the ball.

After converting on fourth-and-1 at Cartersville’s 6, Dontravious Wilson silenced the Hurricanes’ early momentum with his touchdown run from 2 yards out. Matthew Bonadies’ extra point cut the lead to a field goal.

“We were still behind then, but I knew we were beginning to wear them down,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “We made some adjustments, especially in the second half. The key, though, was stopping their running game and turning them into a one-dimensional team.”

Neither team could do much in the third quarter as Cartersville and Buford took turns punting.

“We came out strong in the second half,” coach Barden said. “We stopped them early on, and we went after them every chance we got.”

That is, until Buford’s second interception with 1:31 to play in the third quarter.

The Wolves needed to go only 40 yards to take a 14-10 lead on Joshua Thomas’ 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter. After forcing Cartersville to punt on its next offensive possession, Buford solidified its sixth straight trip to the state finals on a 14-yard scoring pass from quarterback Montgomery VanGorder to Isaac Natau

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