Fourteen down, Dome to go!
The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes have thrilled the community with yet another exciting run deep in the state football playoffs and will take their unbeaten record into the Georgia Dome Saturday afternoon (4:30pm, GPB TV Sports) to face arguably the most storied program in Georgia High School Association football history.
The Buford Wolves, coached by former Marietta High School and Auburn University star — Jess Simpson — will be the opponent for the Canes in what promises to be yet another classic tilt. Buford (13-1) has continued a dominant run in 2015, but has been challenged more closely than in recent years. Their only loss, however, came to Class AAAAAA power, McEachern, on the road early in the season.
Buford trailed Woodward Academy 18-7 in the first half of their state semifinal game last Friday before driving 80 yards in the final minute to narrow the halftime deficit to 18-14. Martin Mangram, who finished with 119 yards on 15 carries scored three Wolves’ touchdowns and Buford controlled the second half to win 35-18.
Cartersville cruised to their fourteenth straight win by dominating Bainbridge in the semifinals, 38-7. The only Bainbridge score came on a 96 yard kickoff return by Dameon Pierce.
Canes’ sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 209 yards on 13-of-25 with three touchdown passes. Kobie Whitfield scored on a 70-yard punt return in the second quarter and had a pair of second half interceptions. Senior and Alabama commit, Miller Forristall, caught a pair of touchdown passes. Terrius Callahan had a touchdown reception and Tiamon Pennymon added a touchdown run while the defense kept the Bearcats bottled up for most of the night.
Buford opened the 2015 season with a pair of August wins over Eastern Christian Academy (Elkton, MD) and Berkmar, before losing 37-14 at McEachern Sept. 4. The Wolves have since reeled off eleven straight wins and their defense has recorded eight shutouts. In fact, Woodward Academy was the first team to score more than once against Buford since the McEachern loss.
The Wolves are not only the Class AAAA defending champions, but are striving for their eighth state championship in nine seasons.
Since 2000, Buford has won 221 of 234 games. The Wolves are 152-8 in regular season games and 68-5 in the state playoffs. Buford is also 13-1 in games played at the Georgia Dome during that stretch and 10-3 in state title games. In its entire football history, the Buford program has 27 region championships, has been in the state playoffs 17 consecutive seasons, and has won 11 state titles.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two programs. Buford has won all four previous matchups. Buford won regular season games in 2006 (28-25) and 2007 (40-0) and won state semifinal playoff games in 2012 (21-10) and last year (27-3).
Cartersville has won 18 region championships since 1936 and fourteen since 1989. The Hurricanes won state titles in 1991 under head coach Mike Earwood and in 1999 under the direction of coach Frank Barden.
The 1991 title team was led by Georgia Player of the Year, running back LaShon Darby; all-state linebacker Raymone George; quarterback John Woodard; and wide receiver Michael Roberson.
In 1999, future Auburn and NFL star, Ronnie Brown led the Hurricanes team that also had all-state wide receiver Lavada Johnson and all-state defensive lineman, Albert Turner.
In only his second season at the helm of the Hurricanes, coach Joey King has compiled a 26-2 record at Cartersville and the current senior class has now won 50 games in four seasons.
NOTE: Historical data credit to Georgia Football Historians, http://ghsfha.org.