CARTERSVILLE — A light autumn breeze swirled around the Cartersville High School football stadium, but Trevor Lawrence’s spirals didn’t seem to notice. As he served his receivers passes in video game style against a helpless Sandy Creek defense, the question was when, not if, Cartersville would pull its starters so that the Patriots could have a chance of competing without being scored on every three and a half minutes.
“They’re better than great,” Sandy Creek head coach Brett Garvin said.
Due to the caliber of Cartersville (8-0, 4-0), which has beaten its last six opponents by a combined score of 311-24 and won back-to-back state championships, it’s no embarrassment that Sandy Creek (3-4, 0-3) was shut out 63-0 on the Hurricanes’ home turf Friday night. It can’t be too reassuring, however, because even though Cartersville has dominated the past half dozen games its played, the nine-touchdown margin of victory is its largest of the season thus far.
While the Patriots’ offense fluttered—four of its first five drives gained only five yards—Cartersville’s first play from scrimmage, a 78-yard burst through the middle of the field from Lawrence, set the tone for what would be a long night for Sandy Creek. In only one half of play time, Lawrence completed 15 of 19 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He would’ve had more scores if not for Starr’s Mill transfer Rico Frye, who punched in three short-range rushing touchdowns. Frye ended his first-half output with 11 carries for 42 yards and three catches for 44 yards.
Frye, a senior, said he’s thankful for his years at Starr’s Mill, but added, “Out here, It just feels like home. I’m just glad to be here.” After Friday’s game, it’s not hard to imagine why.
While Lawrence, a 2018 Clemson commit, piled touchdowns on Sandy Creek, 963 miles north, in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, Clemson’s 11-game win streak was snapped. With under a minute remaining in the first half, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant sustained a concussion and did not return to the game. While Clemson fans may be worried about the present, any fan who watched Lawrence play Friday night likely has no concerns about the future. Lawrence could be one more efficient night away from toppling the all-time Georgia High School Athletic Association career passing yards record set by Bryant’s Clemson predecessor, DeShaun Watson.
“His playmaking ability is outstanding,” Cartersville head coach Joey King said of his quarterback.
Lawrence dissected the Sandy Creek defense with ease, arching deep throws into the outstretched arms of his wideouts, hitting slants between the jersey numbers and carefully timing screen passes to his halfbacks as soon as they turned around to receive them. His most impressive play, however, might’ve been the one time Sandy Creek’s defensive line nearly flattened Lawrence 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. In the second quarter, Lawrence backpedaled towards the Cartersville sideline as a trio of Patriots chased him down. He turned turned his body back and forth, looking for an opportunity to step into a throw, but there was none. Right before he was pushed out of bounds, he heaved a pass a few yards past the line of scrimmage into the waiting arms of Frye.
“I was just looking for someone to throw to,” Lawrence said after the game, as he simply analyzed a play that likely only a handful of high school quarterbacks in the state of Georgia could make. Added King, “I thought he was going to lose about 15 yards. I don’t like that part of it, but I’m always amazed that he ends up making a play in those tough situations.”
The second-stringers came in at the onset third quarter because the Cartersville halftime lead was 56-0. In the opening kickoff return of the second half, Sandy Creek’s Amin Shaheed ran to the 50-yard line. It was the first time the Patriots offense had reached midfield. Although the Sandy Creek offense still couldn’t muster any points in the second half, Garvin said he was pleased his team cut down on penalties and hopes that facing a team as talented as Cartersville allowed his young team to mature quickly.
“We’ve got a bunch of young kids on the team, and it’s one of those things, they’re just going to get baptized by fire,” Garvin said. “We knew they were going to make some mistakes. We were hoping we could limit the number of mistakes that they made.”
Frye said his team will use next week at practice to continue to get better. For some, 63-0 is an anomaly. For Lawrence, it’s an expectation.
“It feels pretty good,” Lawrence said. “It’s what we want to do every game.”