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Two games don't really make a rivalry but it certainly seems as though the Coffee Trojans and Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are more familiar with each other than they really are.
Maybe it's not how many times the two teams have played each but instead, what was at stake in each of those meetings. The Trojans and Purple Hurricanes never played prior to the 2020 season -- a COVID-complicated year that saw the season start and finish late. Coffee made the long trip up I-75 and played Cartersville in the semifinals just two years removed from playing for a state title.
The game was close and the Trojans certainly had their opportunities. Trailing by a touchdown, Coffee had the ball around the 10-yard line with under a minute remaining. The Trojans had some momentum and threw two passes into the end zone. Each fell incomplete. When the game ended, you could almost hear the Cartersville fans let out a collective sigh of relief. The Purple Hurricanes had won 24-17 and went on to face the Warner Robins Demons in the state finals. The Demons dispatched the Purple Hurricanes with ease, 62-28.
Last year, the game was a different story. It wasn't really close and was all but over at halftime. Playing in the quarterfinals, Cartersville stunned Coffee with three quick touchdowns and carried a 42-14 lead into the intermission. The Trojans fought back in the second half and did a good job of keeping the 'Canes in check. But the damage had been done and Cartersville cruised to a 56-28 win. The victory set up a semifinal rematch with Warner Robins the following week. And the outcome was the same as it was in 2020 -- the Demons won, this time 35-10.
This year, however, is different. Yes, for the third time in four years, the Trojans have to travel nearly 250 miles north. It's going to be cold and, if the forecast holds for the rest of the week, wet. But this time, the Trojans are favored. The Georgia High School Football Daily (GHSFD) has Coffee winning 21-9. The Rome News-Tribune has the Trojans winning by 14.
While the weather will be a factor, it should be less of a problem for Coffee. The Trojans rely on their ground game, which tends to be less affected by wet conditions. The GHSFD shows that while Cartersville does like to throw, running the football accounts for 58 percent of the 'Canes' offense. Of course the Trojan defense is equally adept at stopping ground or air attacks. Coffee is allowing just over five points per game and has six shutouts this season -- two of which have come in the postseason.
Against Cass, running back Fred Brown had 25 carries for 173 yards, which puts him one yard shy of 2,100 for the season. He accounted for the lion's share of Coffee's offense; Tyrese Hansley was next with 49 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Maurice Hansley was 7 of 10 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown. While Brown covered most of the yards for the Trojans, it was Tyrese Hansley who put up the points. He scored three of Coffee's four touchdowns on short runs.
On defense, the work was spread out fairly equally. End Elgie Paulk had seven tackles, linebackers Jyarius Carter and Chris Reed has six each followed by fellow linebackers Mykevious Smith and Jatavious Williams with five apiece. Reed recorded three sacks while Smith had two and end Lorenzo Harvey had another. Defensive back Tyriq Edwards intercepted one pass that he nearly returned for a touchdown.
In their quarterfinal match-up agains the Jenkins Warriors, Cartersville was more balanced than Coffee. The Purple Hurricanes didn't have a 100-yard rusher, they only threw for 76 yards, and four players accounted for Cartersville's five touchdowns. Running back Khristian Lando, who caused problems for Coffee last year, scored twice and tallied 44 rushing yards on 11 carries. Most of the offense went through Andrew Purdy, who ran for 96 yards, scored a touchdown, and completed 2 of 3 passes. Quarterback Nate Russell was 6 of 11 passing for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Connor Brasfield led the Purple Hurricanes with seven tackles while Logan Shrewsbury tallied five.
So what exactly does all this mean? It means that Friday night, the Trojans are going to have a fight on their hands. Coffee is favored but sometimes, that doesn't mean very much. All you have to do is look about 90 miles east to see a perfect example of that -- no one gave Camden County a chance when the season started and suddenly, they've got everyone's attention after knocking of #1-ranked Mill Creek 39-20 when Mill Creek was favored by 16. (Camden is an underdog again this week against Walton but I wouldn't bet against the Wildcats at all.)
The Trojans have momentum on their side and, as we've discussed several times in the last few weeks, a reliable and safe game plan. There are few secrets -- Fred Brown is going to get the ball 25 or more times a game and stop him if you can. So far, no one has been able to do that.
Coffee has checked off all the boxes this year as the Trojans have steamrolled their way through the regular season and the playoffs. The key will be to keep their emotions in check. This year's seniors were freshmen in 2020 the first time Coffee and Cartersville squared off.
Yes, this is a big game. Yes, it may be more than a little personal for Coffee. But beating Cartersville and avenging the losses the past are not the main goals of the season. Thus far, the Trojans have done a good job of staying above the fray and they have approached each game in a controlled and business-like manner. That's been one of head coach Mike Coe's messages all year and his players have followed his instructions.
It's a long way to Cartersville but it will be well worth the trip. Get your tickets at www.gofan.com. Let's pack the Purple Hurricanes' stadium just like we did our own a week ago.
One way or the other, this is the last Friday night that the Trojans will play this season. Let's make it a good one.