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Demons end Canes' playoff run in semifinals

Paul Gamble

Warner Robins won the ground war and the turnover battle Friday night in the GHSA Class 5A semifinals and defeated the visiting Cartersville Purple Hurricanes, 35-10.

The Demons leaned heavily on their own rushing attack and the Warner Robins' defense severely limited the Hurricanes' ground game. Cartersville also turned the ball over an uncharacteristic four times in the loss.

Malcolm Brown rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to lead the ground attack by the Demons. Quarterback Isiah Canion was 16-of-25 passing for 140 yards and Daniel Barber kicked field goals of 47, 34, and 23 yards in the win.

Warner Robins limited Cartersville to just 29 yards rushing and outgained the Canes in total yards 402 to 270.

In six first-half possessions, the Cartersville offense had three turnovers, punted twice, and cashed in an opening drive 28-yard field goal by Ryan Johnson.

Meanwhile, Warner Robins scored on four of their first six possessions to build a 20-3 advantage by the intermission.

The Demons kicked field goals in each quarter, posted a pair of touchdown runs, and failed on a pair of field goal attempts in the opening half.

The Canes received the opening kickoff and scored on their initial drive.

Cartersville moved 60 yards on nine plays but settled for a 28-yard field goal by Johnson with 8:30 to go in the opening period. Paul Gamble had a 14-yard run during the drive, but the key play was a 42-yard pass from Gamble to Richard Houston as the Hurricanes led early, 3-0.

Warner Robins marched the ensuing possession 66 yards to match the Canes’ field goal. Malcolm Brown had a 53-yard run for the bulk of the yardage. The field goal was a 34-yarder by Daniel Barber with 6:25 to go in the first quarter.

The remainder of the first half scoring belonged to the Demons.

Following a Cartersville fumble, Warner Robins marched 72 yards on 13 plays to take a 10-3 lead at the 10:58 mark of the second quarter. Elijah Antonio cashed in the drive with a four-yard run from a wildcat formation direct snap.

An interception ended the next Cartersville possession, but Warner Robins missed a field goal to leave the score 10-3 near the midway point of the second quarter.

Unable to move the ball on their next possession, Cartersville punted leaving the Demons with good field position at the Canes’ 49-yard line.

On the first play after the punt, Brown found daylight for a 49-yard touchdown run down the left sideline with 6:17 to go in the half. Barber’s PAT kick put the Demons up 17-3.

Two possessions later, Warner Robins added a 22-yard field goal to close out the first half.

The final scoring drive of the half covered 50 yards to the Canes’ 4-yard line where the Demons settled for another Barber field goal with 0:03 left before intermission.

The first three possessions of the second half all resulted in touchdowns.

Warner Robins drove 71 yards with the opening possession of the half. Runs by Brown, the quarterback Isaiah Canion, and William Gunnings moved the ball methodically down the field. Gunnings capped the drive with a 28-yard run with 8:57 to go in the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass attempt failed to leave the score 26-3.

Cartersville marched 65 yards back down the field for the Canes’ second score of the night.

Gamble had a 33-yard completion to Jamauri Brice during the drive and connected with Collin Fletcher for a 22-yard touchdown strike with 5:58 left in the period. Johnson’s kick made the score 26-10.

The Demons answered immediately with a 68-yard drive that required 16 plays and took 4:37 off the clock. Brown, Canion, Gunnings, and Elijah Antonio all had significant carries on the march with Canion cashing in the drive with a four-yard burst. The Demons’ PAT kick failed to make the score 32-10 with 0:21 to go in the third quarter.

Both squads punted on their next possessions and Rasean Dinkins picked off a Cartersville pass midway through the fourth quarter for the Canes’ fourth turnover of the night.

Warner Robins followed with a short drive to the Canes’ 40-yard line setting up a 47-yard field goal by Barber — his third of the night. The kick gave the Demons a 35-10 lead with 5:14 left in the game.

Cartersville drove inside the Warner Robins’ five-yard line on their final possession but turned the ball over on downs following a pair of incompletions.

The win improved Warner Robins to 10-4 on the season after a 1-4 start. The Demons will square off with Ware County next Saturday for the Class AAAAA state championship.

It will be a sixth consecutive state championship game appearance for Warner Robins. Ware County enters the title game with a 13-0 record after defeating Dutchtown 31-7 in Friday’s other semifinal.

For Cartersville, another outstanding season ends with a 12-2 mark.

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