Canes outlast Coffee to reach Class 5A state championship game

The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes defeated the Coffee Trojans 24-17 Friday night at Weinman Stadium to advance to the Class 5A state championship December 30 at Georgia State University.

Cartersville scored first marching 75 yards in just over seven minutes on the game’s opening drive. Quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson scored on the 2-yard power run behind the Canes’ heavy package to put the Canes up early, 7-0.

On Coffee’s first possession, Trojans running back Brady Skipper fumbled the ball and Cartersville’s Tate Smith recovered for the Canes at the 42-yard line. The possession ended empty, however, when a Cartersville field goal attempt was blocked.

The Trojans then put together an impressive drive of their own. Maurice Turner had multiple runs for Coffee and capped the drive with a 7-yard run to tie the score, 7-7.

Evan Slocum

Following a Cartersville punt on the ensuing possession, Coffee drove deep enough to set up a Noah Saylor 36-yard field goal that gave the Trojans a 10-7 lead with 2:48 remaining in the opening half.

The next two possessions resulted in fumbles, but the Coffee turnover finished in points for the Hurricanes. Amarai Orr grabbed the Trojan miscue and raced 75-yards with the scoop and score that gave Cartersville a 14-10 lead with 1:24 left in the half — a lead the Canes would take to the intermission.

An exchange of punts to start the second half and a second stop by the Hurricanes’ defense started the next Cartersville scoring possession at their own 38 yard line. A catch by Evan Slocum near midfield and a high-reaching grab by Devonte Ross moved the Canes down to the Coffee 20-yard line. A bad snap backed the Canes up, but another pass by Del Rio-Wilson to Ross set up a successful 37-yard field goal by Oscar Hernandez and a 17-10 lead with 5:31 left in the third quarter.

Coffee’s next drive moved the ball methodically down the field with an effective, heavy dose of Turner runs to the red zone. The drive culminated with a 9-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Wilkerson to Turner with 10:50 remaining for a 17-17 score.

Cartersville answered quickly however with the go-ahead score. A screen pass from Del Rio-Wilson to Ross moved the Canes rapidly to the 44-yard line. A few plays later, the quarterback hit Evan Slocum with a 40-yard touchdown connection and a 24-17 lead with 8:32 remaining.

The Trojans would have two more possessions including a final drive to the Cartersville red zone in the final 45 seconds, but — as it has done all season — the Canes' defense came up with another big stop on downs when Orr and Kolbe Benham combined to break up a fourth down pass play with only 9 seconds remaining.

Cartersville (12-1) advances to the Class 5A state championship game Wednesday, December 30 at 3:30 p.m. at Georgia State University where the Canes will meet Warner Robins. The Demons (12-1) beat Jones County Friday night in the state's other Class 5A semifinal, 56-21. It will be Cartersville’s fourth trip to a state title game since 2015 and the Hurricanes will seek their fifth state title all-time.

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Cartersville, Georgia