With a wealth of returning talent, particularly on offense, the Cartersville football team should be in a position to reload this fall. A lot of their success for 2013, however, may be determined by the team’s attitude.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to do is replace our senior leadership,” said coach Frank Barden, who will be starting his 19th season with the Purple Hurricanes this fall. “That was a strong character class. There’s no question our team’s success last year was all about chemistry.”
That chemistry was reflected in the results. Cartersville went 13-1 before losing to Buford in the Class AA semifinals.
Much of that Region 5-AAA championship team will be returning this fall. The Purple Hurricanes have many offensive weapons back from last year’s team that averaged 42.2 points during the regular season.
The offense begins with quarterback Brooks Barden, a 6-foor-3, 214-pound senior who was a first-team all-state selection last year. Barden threw for 2,436 yards and 36 touchdowns last season and didn’t throw an interception until the quarterfinal. He also ran for 430 yards and five touchdowns.
Barden was the Associated Press Class AA Player of the Year and has gotten a bag full of inquiries from colleges. “He’s going through the process,” coach Barden said. “He’s developed into a solid leader.”
Cartersville will surround Barden with plenty of talent. Brandon Long (597 yards, 11 TDs) and Kalin Heath (517 yards, 11 TDs) return at running back, with T.L. Ford (30 catches, 10 TDs) and Gordon Gray(four TDs) both back at wide receiver.
Another key returner will be rising sophomore Tiamon Pennyman, who ran for 131 yards and two TDs in only 10 carries before breaking his femur. Barden said Pennyman’s rehab has progressed well and that he only needs to sustain a few pops to get back in the groove.
The Canes are looking for help on the offensive line, where they graduated three starters.
The defense will be solid at linebacker and the secondary, but needs help replacing a pair of defensive linemen.
Top defensive players include defensive back Mark Quattlebaum and lineman Alex Barnes. Pennymon will also play linebacker this year; he only played offense as a freshman.
Cartersville will need to replace stellar kicker Preston Slemp, who signed with Eastern Kentucky.
The Canes will be favored to win the region again, with competition from Ringgold, Adairsville and Gordon Central. But Barden isn’t worrying about that right now.
“We’re trying to focus on ourself,” he said. “If you get beat, most of the time you beat yourself. That’s chemistry. That’s why developing that chemistry is going to be huge for us.”
Cartersville Purple Hurricanes
2012 record: 13-1, 7-0 in Region 5-AAA, lost in semifinals to Buford
Starters returning: 6 offense, 6 defense
Key players returning: QB Brooks Barden, RB Tiamon Pennymon, DB Mark Quattlebaum.
Spring practice dates: May 1-16.
Schedule: Aug. 30 at Darlington, Sept. 6 Cass, Sept. 13 at Rockmart, Sept. 20 North Murray, Sept. 27 Coahulla Creek, Oct. 4 at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Oct. 18 at Gordon Central, Oct. 25 at Adairsville, Nov. 1 Sonoraville, Nov. 8 Ringgold
Outlook: The Purple Hurricanes are loaded with offensive weapons and will be the favorite again in Region 5-AAA. In addition to all-state QB Brooks Barden, Cartersville has a ton of players back at the skill positions. Help in needed on the offensive and defensive line, where graduation took a toll, but pencil this team in as a contender for a state championship.