CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Blessed Trinity went to its bag of tricks with a fake field goal play on the last play of the game against the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes but came up short by a 24-23 score.
Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin addressed his crestfallen group after last Friday’s 24-23 playoff loss to Cartersville and accepted responsibility for the outcome.
“It’s not your fault,” McFarlin told his assembled players. “It’s my fault. That last play was on me.
“I’m not apologizing. Sometimes you have to pull the trigger. We’re on the road and I didn’t want to go into overtime at their place. I’ll never back down from making a call.
We deserved to move on, but that’s the way it is.”
The play McFarlin was referring to was a fake field goal with eight seconds to play that could have given the Titans a win rather than a tie if the kick was accurate.
Trailing 24-21 with the ball on the Cartersville 11, McFarlin elected to try a play the Titans had worked on in practice for just that situation. He had seen the Purple Hurricanes on film making all-out attempts to block kicks, and thought the fake would catch them off guard.
As it turned out, Cartersville did not fall for the Titans’ deception and had the play defended perfectly. Senior linebacker Brandon Wells intercepted the pass from BT holder Nathan Etheridge, the team’s punter, just outside the end zone before stepping out of bounds with two seconds on the clock.
Cartersville quarterback Brooks Barden ran out of the end zone on the final play for a safety, ending a game the Purple Hurricanes (12-0) were very fortunate to win.
Trailing 17-7 going to the fourth quarter of the second round Class AAA game, the Titans scored on consecutive possessions to take a 21-17 lead with five minutes to play.
Cartersville responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive to score with 2:12 on the clock. But the Titans quickly answered, using five plays to go 58 yards and reach the Cartersville 12.
After two plays gained one yard, McFarlin sent placekicker Marc Nolan into the game for what would have been a game-tying kick of 28 yards. But the BT coach had planned all along on the fake.
The Titans’ offense had kept Cartersville off-balance the entire game, piling up almost 500 yards. But BT needed 11 more yards to pull out the win, with the team’s final drive ending just like five earlier drives in the game – on a turnover.
Blessed Trinity threw three interceptions and lost three fumbles, with five of the turnovers coming in Cartersville territory and the other leading to a touchdown for the Purple Hurricanes.
“We could be moving on, but you can’t have six turnovers and win a football game,” McFarlin said. “We gave them way too much all night long.”
Blessed Trinity quarterback Spencer McManes completed 17 of 30 passes for 317 yards, but was intercepted twice, once with the Titans inside the Cartersville 10, the other giving the Purple Hurricanes the ball at the BT 20.
McManes also ran effectively, gaining 81 yards in 10 carries, while freshman tailback Milton Shelton ran for 99 tough yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts. Sam Roberts had five receptions for 140 yards, setting up two BT scores with catches of 49 and 48 yards.
The Titans took a 7-0 lead barely two minutes into the game on a 2-yard run by Shelton after McManes connected with Roberts for gains of 24 and 49 yards.
Cartersville tied the game later in the period with a 71-yard drive after the first BT turnover that came at the end of a 28-yard punt return.
McManes hit Nathaniel Maggio for 36 yards to the Cartersville 33, but for the second time in the opening period, the Purple Hurricanes stripped the ball from a BT player to offset a big play.
The Titans’ next two series ended on an interception after they drove to the Cartersville 9, and on a fumble after McManes completed a 27-yard pass and ran for 34 yards to move the Titans inside the Cartersville 20.
BT trailed 10-7 at the half and fell behind 17-7 when the Purple Hurricanes needed to cover only 20 yards after picking off McManes on BT’s second play of the third period.
The Titans drove 80 yards to score with 10 minutes to play on a 31-yard run by Shelton after taking an option pitch from McManes.
The BT defense came up with two straight three-and-outs, and McManes launched a 48-yard strike to Roberts to the Cartersville 1. McManes scored on a sneak on the next play.
Cartersville made several clutch plays to sustain their go-ahead drive, converting on third-and-10 from their 25, on fourth-and-11 to the BT 16 and a 20-yard pass to the 1 on third-and-15.
Undaunted, McManes connected with C.J. Brazil for 35 yards to the Cartersville 30 on the Titans’ first play after the kickoff. A 10-yard completion to Roberts and a 13-yard escape down the sideline by McManes got the Titans to the 12, but BT was unable to come up with one more big play.
“No apologies,” McFarlin offered. “That’s why coaches coach and why fans coach from the stands.”
The Titans finish 9-3, reaching the second round of the state playoffs for the second straight time in McFarlin’s second season as head coach.