CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — It would be difficult to blame Blessed Trinity for being a bit intimidated entering their second-round matchup with Cartersville Friday night. After all, the Purple Hurricanes are the two-time defending state champions. They had won 41 straight games. They have a stout defense that surrendered just eight points per game against in-state opponents this year. Not to mention, they have an offense averaging nearly 50 points per game and the nation’s top quarterback recruit in Clemson-commit Trevor Lawrence.
But on Friday night, the Titans look anything but daunted in their 21-17 win on the road.
“There was not a lot of emotion in the game and that’s one of the characteristics of this football team,” head coach Tim McFarlin said. “They don’t wear it on their sleeves, they go about their business. I like the fact we didn’t spend a lot of energy on high emotions in the early part of the game.”
That focus allowed the Titans to hold Lawrence and Cartersville’s offense to just 226 offensive yards.
“I thought the defensive coaching staff did the best job I’ve seen a coaching staff do in a long time,” McFarlin said. “They found a way to keep Lawrence of balance. He’s everything people say he is but we were able to make him scramble and hit him. I think that threw him off.”
BT disguised their fronts and coverages throughout the night and continually pressured Lawrence, who went 14-27 for 120 yards with a touchdown. McFarlin said the Canes had plenty of speed at receiver, but his defensive backs kept them underneath.
BT’s offense compiled 304 yards with quarterback Jake Smith going 7-8 for 95 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Davis and fullback Jake Rudolph combined for seven receptions. Steel Chambers rushed for 107 yards followed by Elijah Green with 69.
Chambers’ accounted for both of BT’s first half scores and the Titans held a 14-3 lead at the half.
But as McFarlin predicted, it was going to take a full, four-quarter game to down the Canes.
“I told them if we could keep it close in the fourth, I knew we had a chance,” he said. “
Cartersville opened the half with a touchdown pass before taking their first lead of the game in the fourth on a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Leading 17-13, Cartersville had a chance to make it a two-score game late in the fourth. However, a Canes receiver had the ball punched out near the goal line and J.D. Bertrand recovered for the Titans.
BT drove into Canes territory but were forced to punt with under four minutes remaining. But BT’s defense stood tall and forced a punt.
BT then drove to the Canes’ 26-yard line with under 30 seconds remaining. Smith rolled to his right in the pocket and found Ryan Davis in the end zone for the go-ahead score with just 12 ticks remaining on the clock. And for the first time since August of 2015, Cartersville was upended.
“Obviously it was a big win for our program,” McFarlin said. “I’m so proud of our kids. We knew it was going to take a tremendous effort and they played hard all night.”
With the win, BT advanced to the quarterfinals for the fifth-straight year. The last time the failed to reach the third round was in 2012 when they lost to Cartersville, 23-24, in the second round.
The Titans face another top-10 ranked team next Friday on the road against Thomson, who fell to the Canes in last year’s 4A state championship.
“We’re a little banged up because it was such a physical game, and the game in Thomson will be the same,” McFarlin said. “Our first focus is to get kids healthy. You have to have some good fortunes with injuries because it’s a long, tough road in the playoffs. But we’ll start working on our game plan and hopefully go out and have another great game next week.”