4 Questions with Cartersville’s Daily Tribune News sports reporter Nicholas Sullivan

Today’s interviewee is Cartersville Daily Tribune News sports reporter Nicholas Sullivan, who is in his seventh year of covering high school sports, fourth in Georgia and third at The Daily Tribune News. Sullivan will be covering Friday night’s Region 7-5A opener between Cass (5-0) and fourth-ranked Cartersville (4-1).

Nicholas Sullivan, sports reporter for Cartersville’s Daily Tribune News

1. What’s the buzz around the Cass-Cartersville game this season? Why is it interesting? “There’s a ton of buzz in the community about this matchup – especially with both teams coming off an open date, giving fans an extra week to discuss the game. I’ve only been with The Daily Tribune News a few years, but I think it’s safe to say this is the most highly anticipated Cass-Cartersville game since 2006. There are a lot of similarities between that season and this one. The teams also met in the region opener that year, and just like this time around, Cass entered the game undefeated, while Cartersville had one loss. The Canes won that matchup 41-34 in overtime. There are so many storylines that create excitement for this season’s meeting. The teams haven’t played since 2015, so it became a huge talking point last winter, when the GHSA placed the schools in the same region. The buzz went to another level when schedules were released, as we learned the matchup would open region play and both teams would have an extra week to prepare.”

2. Can Cass really compete with the 'Canes? [Cartersville is a 15-point favorite, according to the Maxwell Ratings. The line would’ve been 35 in they’d played in week one, but Cass’s rating has gone up considerably during the 5-0 start.] “I absolutely believe the Colonels can compete with the Canes, but I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to call them favorites, even being at home. The biggest thing Cass has going for it is belief. Being undefeated, being at home and seeing Cartersville lose last time out all add up to Cass believing it can win this game. That’s a credit to first-year head coach Steve Gates and his staff. Gates was actually a coach on the 2014 North Cobb team that handed Cartersville its most recent regular-season loss before this year’s Cherokee game. As for how the Colonels emerge with a win, it will start with their defense. Cass is averaging twice as many points as it gives up, and the Colonels haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a single game this season. Avoiding a shootout will allow Cass to dictate tempo and put less pressure on freshman quarterback Devin Henderson.”

3. How do you see Cartersville this season? What do you expect the impact of Carlos Del Rio, the four-star quarterback who just transferred in, to be? “Currently, I see Cartersville as a borderline top-five team in 5A. The 'Canes are placed in an extremely difficult region, and if a few breaks don’t go their way, they could wind up being on the road in the first round of the playoffs. But trust me, nobody wants them in their half of the draw. This team has the feel of a group that will hit its stride entering the postseason. Cartersville currently has an open date the final week of the regular season, which could prove vital. There are more question marks than normal for the 'Canes at this stage of the season. A lot of that goes back to the disjointed offseason. Replacing a large, influential senior class is always tough, but doing so without spring ball, padded camps or team 7-on-7 workouts is an impossible ask. The offensive line lost three starters, but that group has been pretty impressive, so far. However, the defensive front seven has been banged up, and that proved costly against Cherokee. The pass rush remains strong, but the tackling has left a lot to be desired. One of the biggest concerns could be answered by the arrival of Carlos. Cartersville has put together a ridiculous run of Division-I quarterbacks in recent seasons. Brooks Barden [Charlotte] started four years; Trevor Lawrence [Clemson] basically started his entire career; and Tee Webb [Louisville] led the program the past two seasons. Bringing in a University of Florida commit like Carlos should provide a much-needed jolt to an offense that is still searching for its identity.”

4. Cartersville’s success going back decades seems to have strangled the growth of the county programs. What are the reasons for that? What will it take to break out for Cass, Adairsville or Woodland? “The most obvious reason is that success by Cartersville has led players from the other schools in the county to transfer there. It’s something that happens in nearly all sports in the county, where one program is so dominant that talented athletes from the other schools want to be a part of it. It’s hard to fault the players and parents because the goal is often to help get the athlete collegiate offers. That means transferring is an issue that certainly won’t go away. As for breaking out, one could argue that Adairsville, for the most part, has been able to have enough success to retain a majority of its most talented players. The Tigers are a perennial state playoff contender and reached the 3A quarterfinals in 2015. The model for success seems to be two-fold: Have belief and have success. Adairsville has managed to achieve both of those goals under head coach Eric Bishop. Cass and Woodland, which is off to a 3-0 start this season under Tony Plott, both appear to have the necessary belief, and those programs will hope that increased success will come from that.”

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