Blessed Trinity has done it!
The Titans snapped Cartersville’s 41-game winning streak on Friday and punched their ticket to the quarterfinals with an unforgettable 21-17 win.
For those wondering how it was done, Blessed Trinity dominated the first half, lost the lead late and then clinched victory in the final seconds by leaving Cartersville with no time left to respond. Blessed Trinity’s junior running back Steele Chambers provided all the first half offense with a pair of rushing touchdowns and all the Purple Hurricanes managed was a school-record 55-yard field goal, which should illustrate what a tough half it was for Cartersville. The Canes also saw dropped passes in the first half as they failed to get any drive going.
Cartersville was the classification’s two-time defending state champions because they are an unbelievable football team, led by an outstanding coach in Joey King. As expected, the Canes did everything they could to fight back in the second half and they put themselves in position to close out a victory despite being a team that rarely needed to play its first unit after halftime. Trevor Lawrence hit E.J. Turner for a 15-yard touchdown pass and Marko Dudley returned a punt 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that put Cartersville up 17-14 as the game wound down.
Then came the game-winning decision made by Blessed Trinity head coach Tim McFarlin and the play that pulled it off. Trailing by three points in the final minute, the Titans made it to the Cartersville 26-yard line and felt that they were in position to tie the game with a field goal. McFarlin saw the opportunity he had to go for the win right then and there and he decided to take it.
“We felt like we could take a shot and still have time to attempt a field goal,” explained McFarlin. “That was the advantage we had.”
Junior Ryan Davis is a player that McFarlin trusts in the big play moments and he went out wide as the only receiver on the play. Titans quarterback Jake Smith took the snap and immediately rolled out right as a pack of purple jerseys closely followed. Smith got clobbered as he threw the football toward the end zone, but Davis had already made himself open with a double-move that separated himself in the middle of double coverage with the corner and safety help. It was the perfect play call, timing, route and design. The Cartersville defense wasn’t in prevent because it wasn’t a hail mary moment. It was a situation where the defense had to play honest and Blessed Trinity fully seized it by taking the chance. Davis heroically hauled in Smith’s deep ball near the right corner of the end zone with just 12 seconds left to give Blessed Trinity the 21-17 victory.
These big moments haven’t gone in Blessed Trinity’s favor the past two postseasons. Two years ago it was a crushing defeat to Westminster in the state championship and last year it was a one-point loss in the playoffs to end the season. Last year's team was one of the classification's youngest and the talent and potential was clearly there with Chambers, Smith and Davis only sophomores. Still, I thought it would take one more year for Blessed Trinity to pull it off. I thought Cartersville was as close to unbeatable as ELCA and Benedictine have proved to be in Class A-Private and Class AA this year.
I wrote at the start of this season that I thought Blessed Trinity's young core of players would make them the team to beat next year once Lawrence graduated and Cartersville had to regroup with a new quarterback. I still think Blessed Trinity is going to be the team to beat next year, but now they are one of just eight teams remaining and this year is there for the taking.
So what is next for a team that just pulled off what will be one of the most well-known playoff upsets in years? What's next for a classification that saw the fourth-longest winning streak in state history end before the quarterfinals?
Without Cartersville, this is an entirely different playoff bracket. Class AAAA is going to be very interesting and this next week will be the measuring stick that gives us the first look in years at what the classification looks like without Cartersville crushing everything in its path. I'm expecting Blessed Trinity to keep its confidence and focus in balance.
As for Cartersville, thank you for raising the bar in Class AAAA these past three years.
ELITE 8 PAIRINGS
Marist at Burke County
St. Pius at Woodward Academy
Blessed Trinity at Thomson
Jefferson at Mary Persons