Class 5A blog: Warner Robins-Cartersville looks like a classic

It is only fitting that the championship game in Class 5A will be determined by two of the state’s blue-blood programs. Both Warner Robins and Cartersville are among Georgia’s most iconic programs. Both have a great history of success, both have a rabid fan base and both deserve to be playing in the championship game.

Cartersville is the seventh-winningest team in Georgia high school history. They started playing football there in 1909, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. The Purple Hurricanes are just six wins shy of the program’s 700th and they’ve produced four state championships.

Warner Robins has 544 wins and four state championships to its credit since they began counting games in 1954. That includes the unprecedented 24-year reign of coach Robert Davis, who went 253-41-1 with 18 region championships and three state titles in 24 seasons. Davis, who died this fall, also brought home a national championship in 1976.

The two programs – one dominant in northwest Georgia, one dominant in middle Georgia – will be meeting for the first time. It has all the makings of a classic.

The Class 5A championship game will be Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. It can be seen live on GPB.

About Cartersville (12-1): Coach Conor Foster is in his second season as head coach and had no trouble moving up in classification, as the ‘Canes got popped by the GHSA’s new multiplier. They had their 62-game regular-season unbeaten streak broken by Cherokee, but have not been stopped since. Their most significant regular-season win came against Calhoun. Their big showdown with Blessed Trinity was called off because of COVID within their ranks and caused the ‘Canes to be the No. 2 seed in Region 7.

The Hurricanes are a high-powered attack with quick-strike potential throughout the lineup. Florida signee Carlos Del Rio-Wilson has taken over the starting quarterback job since he transferred in midway through the season. He’s thrown for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. Top targets are Sam Phillips (65 catches, 820 yards, five TDs) and Kentucky signee Devonte Ross (43 catches, 876 yards, 10 TDs)

Quante Jennings is the leading rusher (893 yards), but he missed last week’s game and Evan Slocum, a Wake Forest signee, moved over from safety to get the job done. Slocum is an unflappable guy who leads the team with 66 solo stops and 84 total tackles. Amarai Orr is a lockdown corner who has 10 passes defended and five interceptions.

How they got there Def. Maynard Jackson 56-6, def. St. Pius 31-19, def. Ware County 34-31, def. Coffee 24-17.

About Warner Robins (12-1): Marquis Westbrook, the longtime defensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach last year and took the Demons to the title game. Now he’s 2-for-2. Warner Robins lost twice this year, although the Valdosta decision was reversed via forfeit. The Demons had one close Region 1 game, but prevailed over No. 3 Ware County, which wound up giving them the league’s top seed. Their biggest win came in the third round when they eliminated three-time defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Blessed Trinity.

The Demons are a dangerous offensive team behind quarterback Jalen Addie, who has thrown for 1,944 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 947 yards and 11 touchdowns. His may be the most accomplished player in the championship without a big-time offer.

The Demons have quick-strike potential with receivers Daveon Walker (43 catches, 699 yards, six TDs) and Armon Porter (28 catches, 687 yards, eight TDs), but their biggest strength is on the ground. Warner Robins averages 241 yards rushing, with Jahlen Rutherford (1,030 yards, eight TDs) and Malcom Brown (1,000 yards, nine TDs) a significant one-two punch.

The top defensive players are veteran inside linebacker Ahmad Walker, a Liberty signee who can be a load to stop. Buford struggled to slow him down last year. The question mark is whether big-time Div. I prospect Vic Burley will play. The tough-to-block defensive lineman, who has 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, was carted off the field two weeks ago, but speculation remains that Burley will play in the final.

How they got there: Def. Union Grove 49-7, def. Woodward Academy 30-7, def. Blessed Trinity 35-28, def. Jones County 56-21.