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Fast start lifts Canes to playoff win over Coffee

Malachi Jeffries

The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes scored touchdowns on five of their six first half possessions, added the first of two defensive scores, and held early control in a 56-28 home playoff win Friday night over the Coffee Trojans.

Quarterback Paul Gamble tossed a touchdown pass and ran for two more scores in the first half as the Hurricanes built a 42-14 lead by halftime. The Canes' defense also scored twice before the intermission.

On Cartersville’s opening drive, a pair of passes from Gamble to Jamauri Brice and Romo Pace moved the Canes to the Coffee 10-yard line. After a few short runs by Malachi Jeffries, Gamble scored on a 2-yard keeper. Ryan Johnson’s first PAT kick gave the Canes a 7-0 lead with 9:22 remaining in the opening quarter.

A Case Adams interception set up the next Cartersville touchdown. Adams picked off the throw at the 32-yard line on a third and long and returned it to the Trojans’ 17-yard line. The Hurricanes added to their lead shortly after with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gamble to Jeffries making the score 14-0 with 7:46 to go in the first period.

On the Canes' next possession they traveled 65 yards for another touchdown.

A 28-yard reception by Jamauri Brice and a 22-yard run by Gamble were the big plays on the drive. Gamble punched in the score with a 4-yard run from a power formation giving the Canes a 21-0 lead with 3:09 left in the initial quarter.

Coffee found paydirt on the ensuing possession. Runs by Dreshawn Taylor, Fred Brown, and Antwain McDuffie set up a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Maurice Hensley. Following Kah’jere Smith’s kick, the Trojans had narrowed the Cartersville advantage to 21-7 with 10:52 left in the second quarter.

The two teams traded punts before Cartersville added to the lead.

Gamble connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Collin Fletcher, giving the hosts a 28-7 lead with 7:13 remaining in the first half.

The Cartersville defense stopped Coffee on their next possession and the offense followed up with another score. Jeffries had a 20-yard dash on the drive and Lando punched home the Canes’ touchdown with a 12-yard run with 3:27 to play in the first half giving the Canes a 35-7 lead.

Coffee was stalled again on their next possession and decided to go for a fourth-and-two play at their own 28-yard line. The Canes stuffed that attempt and took over at the Trojans’ 27-yard line with 1:44 remaining in the half holding two timeouts.

Four Gamble runs later, Cartersville found paydirt again and built a 42-7 lead. The scoring play was a four-yard run by Gamble with 0:51 remaining in the half.

Coffee responded in the final seconds of the half, however, and closed out the half with their second touchdown.

A long chunk run by McDuffie set up a pass from Hensley to Billy Simpson that moved the Trojans to the Canes’ nine-yard line. Two plays later, McDuffie scored on a six-yard run with 0:15 remaining in the half to make the score 42-14 at the intermission.

Although Cartersville scored a defensive touchdown to start the second half, Coffee did not go away quietly.

The Trojans drove about 27 yards on seven running plays and one short pass following the second half kickoff, but a bad pitch on a speed option play bounced into the arms of Cartersville’s Collin Fletcher who returned it 46 yards for a Canes’ scoop-and-score touchdown and a 49-14 lead with 8:57 remaining in the third.

Coffee’s Patrick McCall returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Cartersville 15-yard line.

Three plays and one penalty on the Canes later, McDuffie scored on a three-yard run out of a direct snap making the score 49-21 with just under eight minutes to go in the period.

After forcing a Cartersville punt, Coffee scored again on a 46-yard drive. The key play on the drive was a 37-yard pass from Hansley to Keshad Turner to the three-yard line. Brown scored on the next play with a short plunge making the score 49-28 with 4:10 remaining in the third period.

Early in the fourth quarter, Coffee methodically drove down the field on multiple runs by Tyrese Woodgett. From the Canes’ 27-yard line, Brown found a hole and ran inside the five but was stripped of the football. Case Adams fell on the miscue at the four-yard line halting the Coffee threat.

Cartersville put an exclamation point on their victory with another touchdown drive in the final minutes. Jeffries broke free for a 41-yard run for the bulk of the yardage. Four plays later, Lando made a nice cut on a 12-yard touchdown run that made the final score 56-28 with 0:53 remaining.

Coffee’s season ends with a 10-3 record.

Cartersville (12-1) advances to the GHSA Class 5A semifinals and will travel to Warner Robins for a rematch with the team that has eliminated the Canes each of the past two seasons.

Warner Robins (8-4) knocked off Creekside Friday night in overtime, 31-28.

The Demons defeated Cartersville last season in the second round 24-17 and topped the Canes in the 2020 state championship game, 62-28.

Warner Robins lost four of its first five games this season, but has now reeled off seven consecutive wins.


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