Canes return to state semifinals with 26-15 win at Woodward Academy
The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes won for the 28th consecutive time and moved to 13-0 this season with a 26-15 road victory Friday night at Woodward Academy in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Class AAAA state playoffs.
With the victory, the Canes advance to the state semifinals for the third season in a row and the fourth time in the last five years.
The Hurricanes capitalized on early opportunities, controlled the second half to build a 17 point lead, then held on for their eighth straight playoff win over two seasons.
Cartersville led 16-9 at halftime by virtue of a safety, a short Trevor Lawrence run, and a Lawrence to T.J. Horton touchdown pass.
The safety occurred when a Woodward Academy punt attempt by Martin Rodriguez bounced about 40 yards backward off the back of one of his forward blockers. It came to rest in the end zone. The punter was able to arrive first and punch the ball out of the back of the end zone to yield the safety. The deflection was caused by Canes’ defensive lineman Darian Poelnitz who drove the blocker backward and into the kick.
Lawrence capped off Cartersville’s ensuing drive with a five yard run with 7:29 remaining in the first quarter. Then on the Canes next possession, Lawrence connected with Horton for a four-yard touchdown pass.
Antoine Jefferson had a 32-yard reception on that drive and Trey Creamer had a seven-yard run to the four yard line that set up the second touchdown with 2:30 left in the first quarter. A PAT kick by Cruz had Cartersville up 16-0.
Woodward Academy scored in the second quarter on a 49 yard drive capped by a Ryan Glover to Cade Sutherland 8-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick failed with 5:43 remaining in the half, but the War Eagles had narrowed the Canes’ lead to 16-6.
Rodriguez added a 33-yard field goal for Woodward Academy on the final play of the first half sending the teams to their locker rooms with Cartersville ahead 16-9.
Jonathan Cruz made a 51-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter, but Coach Joey King opted to take a 15-yard penalty (roughing kicker) for a first down that took those points off the board. The Canes ultimately drove to the two yard line before stalling. Cartersville settled for a 20-yard field goal by Cruz with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter that stretched their lead to 19-9.
Cartersville added a fourth quarter, four-yard touchdown run by Jefferson with 1:52 remaining. The drive covered 54 yards in five plays with Cruz adding another PAT for a 26-9 lead.
Woodward Academy came back down the field and scored on a Ryan Glover to Josh Johnson four-yard pass with only 0:08 remaining. The War Eagles’ two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the final score at 26-15.
Canes' junior quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, was 19 of 31 for 176 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score.
War Eagles' quarterback, Ryan Glover, finished the night 20 of 38 for 179 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Antoine Jefferson hauled in 10 receptions for 122 yards and added a four-yard touchdown run and the Canes' defense was led by Nyvin Nelson and Xavior Coaxum.
Nelson finished the night with 10 tackles. He also broke up a pass and picked one off. Coaxum added seven tackles, a sack, and three pass breakups.
Woodward Academy, who was also seeking a third consecutive trip to the state semifinals, saw its season conclude with an 11-2 mark.
Cartersville (13-0) advances to the Class AAAA Final Four where they will host the Mary Persons Bulldogs.
The Hurricanes won a coin toss with Mary Persons late Friday night to determine home field advantage. Both teams are top-seeds from their respective regions. The Bulldogs (11-2) defeated Blessed Trinity in the quarterfinals Friday night, 28-27. They have won eight straight since a 20-19 loss at Peach County September 16. They also fell in their season opener at Houston County, 26-14. Mary Persons has playoff wins over North Clayton and Heritage-Catoosa in addition to Friday night's win over the Titans.
Mary Persons was 11-1 in 2015 with their only loss coming to Marist in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. This is the sixth straight playoff appearance for the Bulldogs and it will be the second time the two schools have met in a state semifinal. Cartersville defeated Mary Persons 21-17 in 1991 during the Purple Hurricanes' Class AA state championship run that won their first state title.
Statistics courtesy Jason Greenberg, The Daily Tribune News