Canes beat St. Pius X, earn quarterfinal trip to Ware County
Quante Jennings ran for three touchdowns Friday night as Cartersville scored 31 unanswered points to win their GHSA Class 5A second round state playoff road game, 31-19 at St. Pius X in Atlanta. The win for the 4th-ranked Purple Hurricanes sends them on a long, road trip next week to play at Ware County in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Ware County won its second round game at Creekside Friday night, 49-25.
After a scoreless first quarter, it was the host Golden Lions who got on the scoreboard first. St. Pius drove 97 yards for the game’s initial score with the big play coming on a 41-yard run by quarterback Dennis O’Shea to the Canes’ 3-yard line. That set up a short scoring run by junior fullback Luke Jacobellis with 6:39 left in the second quarter. The touchdown gave the Lions a 7-0 lead.
Cartersville then scored on back-to-back possessions to take a 14-7 advantage by halftime. The key play on the ensuing drive was a long pass play from Carlos Del Rio-Wilson to Evan Slocum that moved the Hurricanes to the St. Pius 27-yard line. Jennings capped the drive with a four-yard run and Oscar Hernandez added the first of his four PATs for a 7-7 score with 3:40 left in the half. A bobbled snap during a punt on the Golden Lions’ next possession resulted in a short kick and allowed the Canes to take over at the 42-yard line. A Del Rio-Wilson pass to Kyler Johnson moved Cartersville to the 23-yard line. That was followed by a Jennings catch and run to the St. Pius 7-yard line. From there, Del Rio-Wilson powered in with a touchdown run. The PAT gave the Canes a 14-7 lead with 7.5 seconds left in the opening half. On Cartersville’s opening drive of the third quarter, Devonte Ross made an acrobatic catch of a Del Rio-Wilson pass to move the Hurricanes to the SPX 18-yard line. An added penalty advanced the ball inside the 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Jennings scored the second of his touchdowns from six yards out and Cartersville led 21-7 with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter.
Later in the third period, a St Pius punt pinned the Canes at their own 4-yard line. But a long drive followed and resulted in more Cartersville points. Key plays in the drive included a 31-yard run by Jennings, a 26-yard run by Del Rio-Wilson, and a Jennings 28-yard jaunt to inside the SPX 5-yard line.
Del Rio-Wilson scored an apparent touchdown on a 2-yard run, but it was negated by an illegal procedure penalty. The Canes then settled for a 22-yard field goal by Hernandez and a 24-7 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
On the next St. Pius possession, Amarai Orr picked off an O’Shea pass and returned it to the Lions’ 16-yard line. The interception set up an eventual 5-yard touchdown run by Jennings and put Cartersville ahead 31-7 — still early in the fourth quarter.
St. Pius drove down the field quickly on their next possession and scored on a 1-yard run by Mason Benefield with 6:21 left in the game. A 2-point conversion pass failed and left the Canes on top, 31-13. After recovering an onside kickoff, the host Lions rallied for one more score. O’Shea connected with Casey Van Meulin for a 13-yard touchdown with 3:57 left in the game. Another 2-point conversion attempt failed.
This time a St. Pius X pooch-kickoff was recovered by Cartersville and the Canes were able to run out the clock to secure their 12-point win. Jennings finished with 165 yards rushing for the Canes. 142 of those yards were in the second half. Del Rio-Wilson added 66 rushing yards with 42 coming in the second half. The University of Florida commit also threw for 186 yards while completing 14 of 22 pass attempts. After splitting time with quarterback Stratton Tripp since his mid-season transfer to Cartersville, it was the first game Del Rio-Wilson has taken all the snaps in a game.
The Golden Lions, who were ranked 8th in Class 5A entering the game, finish the season with a 9-2 mark. Cartersville (10-1) will travel to Ware County for an Elite Eight quarterfinal matchup with the Gators. Ware County is the No. 2-seed from Region 1-AAAAA.