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They’re Back! And Headed to the Benz!

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They’re Back! And Headed to the Benz!

Thomas Smith and Ryan McCrary

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The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are back where they belong! Friday night, the Canes have earned their 3rd appearance in 4 years at the GHSA 4A State Championship Game after defeating the Marist War Eagles, 17-14.

The Canes were given a tough task in facing the stout War Eagles, led by Notre Dame commit Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton, who plays safety and receiver, had 2 interceptions, multiple tackles, and contributed heavily on offense.

Toe met leather as Cartersville received the ball to start a rainy first half. The Canes came up empty on their first possession and were forced to punt. Marist had some early success with their run-oriented triple-option offense, but a bobbled snap, a penalty, and a deflection by Canes’ junior safety Marko Dudley brought up 4th-down and a punt.

It appeared that Cartersville would come up empty again after Marist forced them into a 4th-down punting situation. The punt by Andrew Elizalde bounced on the turf, hitting a Marist special teamer. Reacting quickly, Jackson Lowe pounced on the ball and the Canes regained possession around mid-field. Cartersville wasted no time as junior quarterback Tee Webb threw a perfect ball to sophomore Devonte Ross for 41 yards. A holding penalty on a would-be touchdown forced the Canes to attempt a 25-yard field goal, and as our beloved announcer Jack Howell would say, “The snap by Murphy, the hold by Coaxum, the kick by Hernandez through the uprights!”

After both teams traded empty possessions, the first quarter ended with Cartersville up 3-0.

The Purple Hurricanes executed a touchdown drive on their first possession of the second quarter. After a 12-yard run by senior running back Marcus Gary and a 16-yard pass from Tee Webb to senior tight end Jackson Lowe, the Canes scored on a 33-yard pass from Webb to Ross.

The next few minutes of the half turned out to be a nightmare for the Canes. Tee Webb tried to throw the ball to senior Dadrian Dennis, but the ball was tipped into the air by sophomore linebacker Tyler Hare then intercepted by senior Kyle Hamilton, his first of two. Hamilton then caught a 45-yard pass from junior quarterback Connor Cigelske and Marist cashed in on a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore fullback Lincoln Parker.

The nightmare would not stop for Cartersville, as on the very next possession Webb was stripped of the ball and senior defensive-lineman Jalen Clark rumbled his way in for the Marist touchdown with seconds left in the half. The Canes played it safe and ran the ball with Gary to end the half with Marist leading 14-10.

The Cartersville defense came out on fire in the second half, forcing Marist to punt after a 3-and-out. The Canes’ offense continued to struggle. After a loss of 5-yards on a Marcus Gary run, Marist senior Ryan Mannelly got in the backfield and took the ball from Webb at the Cartersville 8-yard line. The Canes’ D proved tough though, with a big tackle for loss by Devonte Ross setting up a Marist field goal attempt. As the ball was snapped, the C’ville special teams unit got in the backfield and blocked the kick.

Cartersville was finally able to move the ball offensively with the run and intermediate pass game. Webb got the ball out to Jackson Lowe for an 11-yard gain, then it was Marcus Gary’s turn. Following a 6-yard run, Gary broke free for a 41-yard pickup, his longest run of the night. Things seemed to be looking up for Cartersville, as it appeared they were going to score, but the Marist defense stepped up. Tee Webb went for a deep ball to the end-zone, but the ball was picked off by Kyle Hamilton.

The Canes’ were again bailed out by their incredible defense, as the War Eagles were forced to punt. Coach Joey King showed faith in Webb by calling passing plays early on the next drive. Twice, Webb got it out to the flat to Marcus Gary for good gains, but was sacked by sophomore linebacker Derek McDonald to bring up 3rd-and-long. The Canes were ultimately forced to punt, but another Marist mistake got the offense back on the field. In an attempt to block the punt, a Marist defender plowed into Andrew Elizalde and flags came raining down. Webb and Co. capitalized on the opportunity as the junior QB threw a 38-yard touchdown to, yet again, Devonte Ross on 3rd-and-long.

The Canes’ elite D continued their dominance and forced the War Eagles to punt. The Cartersville offense ran the clock all the way down to 1 minute before punting the ball back to Marist. A huge sack by senior defensive end Bobby Harris and a spectacular pass breakup by Devonte Ross set the War Eagles up in a 4th-and-20 situation. Miraculously, Marist converted on a jump ball to, none other than, Kyle Hamilton. The Canes forced another 4th down, but this time with only 4-yards to go. With seconds left, the Cartersville D made the stop to win the game.

Webb finished the game 11 for 24 with 200 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 turnovers (2 interceptions and 2 fumbles). Devonte Ross was clutch when Cartersville needed him most, both on offense and defense. He finished the game with 127 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns along with multiple pass breakups.

The Canes look to bring home the hardware Wednesday, December 12, as they face Blessed Trinity (14-0) in the GHSA 4A State Championship.

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They’re Back! And Headed to the Benz!