ROSWELL, Ga. – The Blessed Trinity Titans advanced to the second round of the state playoffs for a second straight year, defeating White County for a second time this season behind an outstanding performance by quarterback Spencer McManes.
The Titans’ senior QB passed for two touchdowns, ran for one score and was responsible for big plays on four of BT’s scoring drives in an impressive 35-14 victory last Friday in the first round of the AAA playoffs.
The two teams had played each other in September, with the Titans eking out a 21-19 victory with the help of a blocked extra point.
Blessed Trinity (9-2) plays at unbeaten and state-ranked Cartersville (11-0) in a second round game Friday night.
McManes was on target on every pass he attempted against the Warriors (7-4). He completed 11 of 13 for 254 yards, with one of his two incompletions dropped and the other well-defended.
“Spencer controlled the ball well,” BT head coach Tim McFarlin said.
Knowing that the Titans do not have a lot of speed at the receiver positions, White County played tight defense in the secondary and tried to pressure McManes. But the BT quarterback burned the Warriors several times with deadly accurate deep throws.
“I can’t say enough about how hard the offensive line played,” said McFarlin.
The Warriors were limited to two sacks despite a number of blitzes that tested the offensive line.
On BT’s four scoring drives of length, McManes had completions of 66, 27, 30, 19 and 78 yards, and added a 32-yard run on a keeper.
The first of the big gainers was a 66-yard strike to tight end Nathaniel Maggio, whose only other two catches went for touchdowns.
Carter McManes, Spencer’s younger brother, scored on a 4-yard run after Maggio’s lengthy reception to put the Titans ahead early in the second quarter.
A 3-yard scoring catch by Maggio with three seconds left in the first half made it 14-0. McManes hit Sam Roberts for 27 yards and Timmy Mertz for 30 to key the 81-yard drive. The BT quarterback also drew the Warriors offside on fourth-and-1 from midfield and had a key 12-yard run to the White County 5.
The Titans shut out the Warriors in the first half, allowing just three first downs, twice stopping White County on fourth down.
The Warriors (7-4) drove 77 yards for a score to start the second half, but the Titans needed only five plays to go 65 yards for a matching touchdown. McManes accounted for the first 60 yards on a pair of completions and a 32-yard run, with Casey Bradley scoring on a 5-yard run.
The first of two second-half interceptions by Roberts gave the Titans the football at the White County 17, and they scored on a 6-yard pass from McManes to Maggio.
The Warriors went 80 yards in just four plays to close within 28-14 late in the third period, and threatened after their defense forced a BT 3-and-out. But a sack by Carter McManes helped stall the drive, and Roberts sealed the win with his second interception on a fake field goal.
Backed up at their 2-yard line midway through the final period, the Titans picked up a first down on two runs by Carter McManes. Then his brother hit C.J. Brazil over the top for 78 yards on the next play to the White County 7.
Spencer McManes took it into the end zone from there to conclude his exceptional effort.
The Titans finished with 432 yards of offense, gaining 178 on the ground. Maggio, Carter McManes and Roberts all contributed big plays on both sides of the ball.
“I am so proud of the kids,” McFarlin said. “They played hard in all phases of the game.”
The Titans, who lost in the second round of the playoffs last season, will be playing a Cartersville team that has both talent and tradition, but has not been challenged by a soft schedule.
The three other teams in 5-AAA all were beaten in the first round of the playoffs. The Purple Hurricanes won their playoff opener 56-21 with quarterback Brooks Barden, the son of the team’s head coach, passing for six touchdowns.
But Jackson County, the No. 4 team from 8-AAA, amassed 400 yards of offense against Cartersville, twice being stopped inside the 5-yard line. The Purple Hurricanes have had only one game decided by fewer than 18 points this season, an early 24-20 decision over Cass, which went 5-5.