L-R: COLLIN FLETCHER (WR/DB) SR PAUL GAMBLE (QB) SR JOHNATHAN CLINE (OL/OT) SR - Photos Andy Calvert
Over the past 10 years, it’s hard to find many football programs better than Cartersville. The Purple Hurricanes have reached the state finals four times, won two state titles, and have two other semifinal appearances as well. And don’t forget the nine region championships.
A close loss to Warner Robbins in last year’s second round of the playoffs ended the Hurricanes’ playoff run prematurely. Warner Robbins went on to capture the state title over Cartersville’s region foe, Calhoun.
When asked if there was any extra motivation in the off-season after the close playoff loss, Cartersville head coach Conor Foster downplays the loss.
“I can’t say that we don’t think about the loss. But that’s not what fuels us day in and day out. Instead, we are focusing on our standard and making sure we have a championship program, not just a championship team,” Foster says. “We want to make sure we are building great men and great community members. The football is going to take care of itself.”
Along with the attitude and mindset, Foster says being able to keep staff continuity over the past few years continues to play a key role in the Hurricanes’ success.
“We’ve only lost one coach over the last few years, and we were able to replace him with one of our middle school coaches,” Foster says. “We’ve got a core group of strong senior leaders that have played a lot of football, and they have the opportunity to help lead this team forward.”
Cartersville’s success hasn’t made putting a non-region schedule together easy, but the Purple Hurricanes face several tough contests before the region schedule gets started in late September. They face Class 7A Cherokee, Class 6A Jonesboro and Allatoona, Class 5A Heritage-Conyers, and Class AA Columbia before opening Region 7-5A play hosting Calhoun.
“We’ve been lucky that this year we’ve found five opponents with some unique offensive and defensive schemes. A team like Allatoona will line it up under center and pound it out, while Cherokee will spread you out and throw the ball all over the field,” Foster says. “Being able to get those different looks is going to help us in big games later on in the season.”
While Cartersville will once again be the favorite to win the region title, the Purple Hurricanes could face a stiff challenge from Calhoun and new region foe Dalton, as well as up-and-coming Cass.
Paul Gamble takes over at quarterback for Cartersville after spending time last year playing quarterback in situational roles. Foster says Gamble brings a unique skill set to the position. Malachi Jeffries played some running back last season and will get the call a good bit more this year. Collin Fletcher didn’t see much time on the field last year because of an injury but scored a touchdown against Warner Robbins in the playoffs and should be set to play a big role this season.
Foster mentions that offensive lineman Johnathan Cline will serve as an anchor for the offensive and defensive fronts and that line play will be a big part of the Hurricanes’ success this season.
Foster also mentioned Kace Adams and Braylon Inman as key components of the defensive backfield and as big leaders for the defensive unit.
When talking about possibilities for the season, Foster reiterates his earlier words.
“Really, it’s about competing against ourselves and our standard here at Cartersville. We have to make sure we are giving championship-level effort and preparation and working with a purpose every day,” he says. “Our mantra this year is to plant the flag and work on what we need to do to get back on top.”
For a program that has lived at the top for a solid decade, the Purple Hurricanes don’t have far to travel. If the squad can focus on that preparation and prepare the way they are used to, there is no telling how far they can go.