(CARTERSVILLE, GA) – It’s being billed as the game of the season. #1 vs #2, in whatever order you want to put them in, the top two teams in AAAA will face off Friday night in Cartersville. Between the Purple Hurricanes of Cartersville and the Sandy Creek Patriots, there are five state championships since 2009 and a good chance that one of them will play for the title this year. This is the fourth season in row the two teams have been in the same region, but there was an epic quarterfinal match-up between the two in 2014 that changed the direction of both programs.
Both teams entered that game five years ago with identical records, 11-1. Cartersville had lost to North Cobb while Sandy Creek had a region lost to Woodward Academy. With the two seed, the Patriots had to travel to Cartersville for the third-round game.
The Patriots were only two seasons removed from their third state championship under Head Coach Chip Walker. The seniors on the 2014 had already played in ten playoff games in the career since they were sophomores. The only question mark going into the season was the QB, and Coach Walker didn’t have to look to far, his son Trey, a senior, was ready to step up.
The quarterback situation at Cartersville in 2014 is more famous now than back then. Miller Forristall started the season under center but gave way to a tall, lanky freshman mid-season and we all became familiar with the name Trevor Lawrence.
The younger Walker started the game hot, he found Korey Banks open for a 36-yard TD to give Sandy Creek a 7-0 lead. After Cartersville tied it, Javon Jackson took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a TD, it was going to be an explosive night. Sandy Creek relied on all-state running back Eric Swinney for their next TD that gave them a 10-point led. Their defense forced a punt and the Patriots seemed to take control of the game, but a fake punt and a QB sneak TD from Lawrence and put things back in place for the Purple Hurricanes
Swinney scored again on a 52-yard run to put the Patriot lead back to 10, but Cartersville held serve and scored to keep it within three. After a missed field goal by the Patriots, the Hurricanes had the ball and four minutes to earn a victory. One a 3rd-and-10, Lawrence launched a pass to Foristall that gained 45-yards and eventually led to the go-ahead TD with less than a minute remaining, their first lead of the game.
Sandy Creek dove the length of the field but ran out of time on the Cartersville 20-yard line and the Purple Hurricanes won 35-31.
Lawrence, only 15-years old at the time, ending the game with 304 yards passing. Trey Walker had a big night as well, he finished with 254 yards passing and Swinney had 138 yds rushing on 29 carries.
Although Cartersville would lose the state championship to Buford, they would win the next two under Head Coach Joey King. Unfortunately, Sandy Creek didn’t get that far, they lost in the second round the next two seasons and then saw Coach Walker leave for Newnan High School.
Long-time defensive coordinator Brett Garvin assumed control of the Patriots at the start of the 2017 season and has returned the undefeated Patriots to the scene of that fateful night. It should be a great night for the players, coaches, officials and fans. It is what Georgia High School football is all about.
Update – where are they now:
Cartersville QB Trevor Lawrence is the starting QB for the National Champion Clemson Tigers
Cartersville TE Miller Forristall is the starting TE for the Alabama Crimson Tide
Cartersville Head Coach Joey King – Wide Receivers Coach at Costal Carolina University
Sandy Creek Head Coach Chip Walker – Head Coach at Newnan High School
Sandy Creek QB Trey Walker – Assistant Coach at Newnan High School
Sandy Creek RB Eric Swinney – Starting TB for the West Georgia Wolves
Sandy Creek WR Javon Jackson – Safety for the Duke Blue Devils