It was seven days until Christmas. Saturday, December 18, 1999.
“It was cold and rainy, just awful weather,” says Cathy Sharpe, keeper of all-things-Cartersville, including the information about the local high school’s 1999 championship year.
Sharpe creates the Cartersville High football program every year and takes photographs on game nights. “Cartersville football is more than half of my life,” she explains. “I print, document and store all Cartersville articles and create scrapbooks for the players.”
Sharpe was a part of a team of supporters who peppered the city with hype signs back in 1999. They even lined the Interstate 75 exit ramp with Cartersville Hurricane flags and banners all along the route to the stadium. “It felt kind of awkward, with the game being on a Saturday night. It was just different,” Sharpe recalls, “and as terrible as the weather was, the community really came together to support our boys.”
The ’99 Hurricanes began the season with a convincing 42-7 victory over their neighbors, the Woodland Wildcats (Cartersville), who were a successful program in only their second year of existence. That would be the first of seven consecutive games in which Cartersville won while scoring more than 40 points, a feat the ‘Canes would accomplish in nine of their 15 games that season.
An away game at South Forsyth proved to be a little tougher than the previous games and the Hurricanes won that one by two touchdowns. They would close out their regular season with a 34-0 shutout versus North Forsyth and a road victory over Gilmer, 31-14. Next would be the Class AA playoffs.
The 1999 season was head coach Frank Barden’s fourth year at Cartersville. He realized he had a special team that season. “We were a team that got better each week as the year went along. We had kids who were undersized but played big, like center Matt Montgomery and Middle Linebacker Jamarcus Wiley, who both were small (undersized) and played very well,” says Barden.
He was particularly fond of his senior class of that year. “We had a group of seniors who were a close knit group and they put in a lot of preparation and work for the season,” says Barden. Some of those seniors were wide receiver Lavada Johnson, running back J.J. Chatmonand defensive end, Jody Fletcher. “We were a very talented team.”
Multiple players would go on to play at the college level and Class AA Associated Press Player of the Year, Ronnie Brownwould go on to have a very productive NFL career.
“We played some really good teams in the ’99 playoffs,” Barden remembers. The quarterfinal round was a matchup with number-two ranked Dodge County at home. “That was a big game, a really close game,” Barden says of the 21-12 victory.
In the semifinal round Cartersville was victorious over Applin County 30-7 in the Georgia Dome. Next was the Class AA State Championship game versus the Hart County Bulldogs, to be played at home.
“My husband says you can’t talk to me on game day,” Sharpe says and follows her statement with loud laughter. “He says I’m too locked in and focused on the upcoming game.”
Sharpe still roams the sidelines taking photographs and has for the Hurricanes since 1998. Up until the recent years when digital technology has nearly erased the need for paper photos, Sharpe would print out two copies of a photo: a copy for her scrapbook and a copy for the player and his family. “I have never sold a photo to anyone,” she says proudly. Now, she is the owner of thousands of files on many different hard drives.
The Canes’ photographer and scrap booker was a little more invested in the ’99 team because she is the mother of former defensive end, Jody Fletcher. Adding to that investment in the team was a close relationship she had with running back Ronnie Brown, who “was basically a member” of Sharpe’s family. Not only did Sharpe have her boys on the field, she had her husband in the stands yelling his chant that has become a Cartersville famous saying: ‘HIT SOMEBOD-AAAY.’
She woke up that Saturday morning with her Friday night mentality… it was game day.
Cartersville held on to win a very tough game that night, 27-21. Hart County would prove to be the Hurricanes’ closest game, at least according to the score, that season. As great of a game that it was, there’s one word that is still used when someone describes that season. That word is community.
“It’s fun to play a state championship game at home. And the community that night, and the excitement, was unlike anything else I had been a part of,” says Barden.
“We had a great coaching staff,” he continues,” and we had great players and great community support. Cartersville is a special community…itis a special place. The community really got behind the team that season—that night of the championship game—and still gets behind the team to this day. Cartersville is a school that is pretty much owned and beloved by our community and businesses. Most of the people in Cartersville are CHS alumni, and it shows.”
Sharpe is a fan of all things Cartersville, but she is partial to the 1999 Champions. She actually owns a ’99 game ball, signed by the team and necklaces from all three CHS state championships.
Barden, who spent 18 years as head coach of the Carterville Hurricanes and compiled a 154-58-1 record while winning seven region champions and the 1999 Class AA state championship, describes the fortune it took for the season to go as it did.
“It was really a special year. It was one of those years where if ten things have to go your way, they all went our way. The ball bounced our way, we stayed healthy and we went undefeated. We had good play from both sides of the ball all season long,” Barden recalls.
The 1999 Cartersville Hurricanes started the season ranked sixth in Class AA and finished with a 15-0 record, as Region 7 AA champions, won the second of four consecutive region titles, and as Class AA state champions.
The Canes averaged 38 points scored per game, while giving up 12 points per contest. The points surrendered dropped two points to 10 per game in region play while maintaining their 38-point scoring average.
Many of the players received accolades that season, like Lavada Johnson, Albert Turnerand and Ronnie Brown; all were named to various first team All-State teams. Cortney Chatmon, David Thompson and Chris Dietsch were also recognized as All-State honorable mentions. Another member of the ’99 Hurricanes team, Conor Foster, has been named Head Football Coach at Cartersville High School and beginning his time at the helm during this 20-year anniversary season.
“The 1999 Cartersville football team is one of my favorite teams that I have ever been associated with,”says Foster. “We had tremendous talent, but we also had outstanding leadership. The 1999 team left a lasting impression on a community rich in tradition and football culture. We had several leaders on that team, including Ronnie Brown, whom are still very active in the Cartersville community. Their championship legacy on the field, in the classroom and in the community is still the standard that young Purple Hurricanes strive to emulate.”
“When reminiscing on the 1999 season, my fondest memory is the state championship game. We went 15-0, so we were winning every week and did not have time to think about what we were doing. When it was finally all over with, we all thought, wow, what a ride,” says Sharpe.
“So many good teams and good players have come through Cartersville. That ’99 team was a special group of people and a special time in the City of Cartersville. They were talented and they worked awfully hard, and they were very close… it was a special time in the Cartersville legacy,” Barden says as a satisfied smile grows across his face.
As all of the 1999 Hurricane players would say, you’ve got ‘48 minutes to play, but a lifetime to remember.’