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West Hall falls shy of upset, falls to Cartersville 28-26

Missed field goal the difference as Spartans put scare in No. 2-ranked team

POSTED: November 15, 2013 11:56 p.m.

CARTERSVILLE — Top-seeded Cartersville came into its first-round playoff matchup with West Hall ranked No. 2 in the state with a perfect 10-0 record and an average margin of victory of more than 40 points per game.

West Hall, on the other hand, had gone 6-4 and sneaked into the playoffs by winning its last game against Dawson County to earn the program’s first playoff appearance in 12 years.

However, the difference between the two teams Friday night at Cartersville High was just two points as a West Hall 41-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds sailed wide left to give Cartersville the 28-26 victory and a berth in the second round.

“I’m willing to bet you that everybody in the state thought (Cartersville) was going to run us out of this building by 50 points,” West Hall coach Tony Lotti said.

“I’m just proud of my kids. We battled a team that’s tremendous in their place. They don’t lose here and all I can say is, wow.”

The Purple Hurricanes will advance to play St. Pius back at Weinman Stadium next Friday.

“That’s the name of the game right now, survive and advance,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “Our kids competed and played hard. That’s just the way it is in the playoffs.”

After ineffective opening drives by each team’s offense, Cartersville and West Hall traded touchdowns twice, resulting in 27 points scored in less than two minutes of game clock.

The Spartans reached the end zone first with a five-play, 44-yard drive, ending in a 22-yard connection between quarterback Zach English and standout tight end Hunter Atkinson. The extra point was missed, making the score 6-0 seven minutes into the game.

The ’Canes needed just two plays to respond as Tiamon Pennymon patiently followed offensive linemen Ceighln Cooley and Collin Sapp through the West Hall defense before accelerating into the open field for a 67-yard touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, West Hall’s Ty Statham ran 95 yards to give his team a 13-7 lead.

After Cartersville regained possession, the ’Canes went on a four-play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 52-yard run by Pennymon. The sophomore running back ran for 139 yards on five carries in the first half.

The first quarter finally came to an end with Cartersville leading 14-13.

The defense picked up in the second quarter as each team traded turnovers. With Cartersville threatening to score late in the second quarter, West Hall’s Kwon Williams picked off a Brooks Barden pass in the end zone. He was tackled at the 1-yard line on the return.

After two Spartan running plays nearly resulting in safeties, English completed a pass roughly 20 yards down the sideline to Williams, who ran the ball the rest of the way for the touchdown and a 20-14 lead heading into the second half.

The ’Canes came out strong in the second half. After a Trase Fezzia 63-yard kickoff return, Cartersville took over at the West Hall 7-yard line. It took two plays for Kalin Heath to run the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out to give Cartersville a 21-20 lead just 45 seconds into the third quarter.

After forcing a three-and-out, Cartersville scored on the team’s second offensive possession of the second half. Punt returner Mark Quattlebaum put the team at West Hall’s 17-yard line after a 31-yard return.

Three plays later, on third-and-9, Barden found Quattlebaum open in the middle of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown and Cartersville took a 28-20 lead.

West Hall would get back in the game, however. Tyquan Statham picked off a Barden pass at West Hall’s 20-yard line and ran it back 80 yards for the score, making it 28-26. The 2-point conversion attempt failed as Bryce Gober knocked the ball away from Atkinson to keep Cartersville ahead by two with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After West Hall stopped Cartersville’s next drive, the Spartans mounted a drive of their own, taking nine plays to move to the ’Canes’ 18-yard line. After the drive stalled, kicker Bradley Hodgson tried a 35-yard field goal. A poor snap did not allow the kick to get off and West Hall still trailed by two points.

The Spartans stepped up on Cartersville’s next drive, forcing a three-and-out to retain possession with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

After a six-play, 42-yard drive, West Hall was faced with a fourth-and-5 at the 23-yard line. Lotti opted to kick the field goal. It missed and the Spartans end the season 6-5 for their first winning season in 12 years and a first-round playoff exit.

“”For the first time I’m lost for words at the effort my kids gave,” Lotti said. “Oh man, it hurts to be that close, but I’m determined to show that we belong and that’s where we are going to go from here.”


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