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"I'll take these guys anywhere," said Coffee Trojans head coach Mike Coe following Friday night's game against the Cass Colonels at Jardine Stadium.
It’s good that Coe’s not averse to traveling with his team; next week, they’re going to Cartersville to face the Purple Hurricanes for the second year in a row after shutting out the Colonels 30-0 in the quarterfinals.
Friday was a historic night for the Trojans; it’s the first time they’ve won 13 games in a season. And it’s only the fourth time in program history that they’ve advanced to the semifinals. They did so with the same formula they’ve used all year long — keep the ball on the ground, control the clock, and watch the defense swarm the opposing offense.
Just like Jones County the week before, Cass had some weapons on offense. The headliner is, of course, Savoie White, a four-star wide receiver and defensive back who’s committed to Georgia. But he isn’t the only one. Everyone knew the Colonels were going to make plays and, more than likely, put up some points. It was just a matter of keeping the damage to a minimum while quarterback Maurice Hansley and the two-headed monster in the backfield — senior Fred Brown and junior Tyrese Hansley — did the rest.
That didn’t exactly happen.
Yes, Brown and Tyrese Hansley carried the offense. But the Colonels didn’t score a point. They came close. They tried as hard as they could. There were a few moments, especially a big one deep in Coffee territory with 5:17 left in the game, where a touchdown, or at least a field goal, seemed inevitable. But the points never came.
“They don’t flinch. They may give up a play here or there. But they come right back and make a play,” said Coach Coe. “They just don’t flinch.”
Cass set the tone for the first half on the first possession. Senior running back Devin Henderson broke a big run that put the Colonels in a great position to score. Coffee defensive back Jayden Hancock followed that play with a huge pass break-up that seemed to startle the Colonels a bit. With the ball at the Coffee 34, Cass went for it on 4th and 11 but sophomore Brodie McWhorter’s pass to White fell incomplete.
The Trojans took over and followed the same script they did last week. On their second play, Maurice Hansley launched the ball downfield and into the arms of James Jarrard for a 50-yard completion. An offsides penalty on Cass moved the ball to the Coffee 9. The Colonels stood up, however, and refused to let the Trojans score. On 4th and goal from the 2, Maurice Hansley rolled to his right and took off. He decided to go low at the goal line but a Colonel was waiting and stopped him at the one-inch line.
The Cass offense trotted on the field with their backs literally against the wall. They opted for a direct snap to Henderson. He tried to dive up the middle but was met by a wall of Trojans that pushed him back into the end zone for a safety. About halfway through the first quarter, Coffee had a 2-0 lead.
That’s not all the points the Trojans would score. But it’s all they would need.
The kick was a short one and Coffee ended up with the ball on the Colonels’ 37. On the first play of the drive, Maurice Hansley connected with receiver Pat McCall for a touchdown. With 4:26 remaining in the first quarter, Coffee had a 9-0 lead.
Cass made a little noise on their next possession. McWhorter broke a long run to the Trojans’ 18. A holding call against the Colonels moved the ball back to the 28. Then Coffee lined up offsides and that gave Cass 5 yards back. Defensive end Elgie Paulk sacked McWhorter, which put what was once a promising drive in jeopardy. With just a few seconds left in the first quarter, McWhorter went to the air again. This time, Coffee defensive back Tyriq Edwards, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery last week, snatched the ball out of the air around the 5 yard line and headed south — in a hurry. He nearly had a 95-yard pick six but a Colonel finally brought him down at the Cass 9. A couple of plays later, Tyrese Hansley scored on a 2-yard run. Just a few seconds into the second quarter, the Trojans had opened up a 16-0 gap.
Neither team scored for the remainder of the half though Coach Coe did send Jarrard out for a 45-yard field goal attempt with 12 seconds left in the first half. Jarrard’s kick came off his foot headed straight to the uprights but fell just short.
Coffee opened the third quarter with the ball. That first drive started out well but eventually stalled, forcing a punt. The Colonels seemed to be feeling some pressure even though they were only down by 16 with nearly 2 full quarters remaining. They drove to the Trojans’ 31 but ended up facing 4th and 10. McWhorter went to the air again but was running for his life as he let the ball go. It fell harmlessly to the Jardine Stadium grass and Coffee had the ball on downs.
Brown broke a 61-yard run that set up a 3-yard score by Tyrese Hansley. The Trojans had a 23-0 lead that suddenly felt very comfortable even though 4:10 remained in the third quarter.
Cass couldn’t do much after the score and punted. Maurice Hansley and the Coffee offense soon found themselves in a pickle, needing 30 yards for a first down after penalties kept pushing them back. Brown ate up the 30 yards in two plays then Coffee got 15 more on a personal foul call against the Colonels. The penalty moved the ball to the Cass 13. Tyrese Hansley wasted no time turning the miscue into points. He scored for the third time of the night to put Coffee ahead 30-0 (after Jonah Saylor’s fourth extra point of the game).
Between the touchdown and point-after, officials flagged Cass for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That put Jarrard and the kick-off team teeing the ball up at the Colonels’ 30. He easily put the ball through the end zone and Cass took over at their own 20. Even though there were 16 seconds left in the third quarter, the game was effectively over.
McWhorter and his offense pulled a few surprises out of their bag of tricks. They tried a halfback pass and successfully converted a fake punt. The fake punt nearly broke the shutout. McWhorter, who also serves as the Colonels’ punter, lined up for a kick on 4th down but instead found White on the Cass sidelines for a long completion near midfield. Another pass to White put the ball on Coffee’s 13. Cass moved to the Trojans’ 5 but linebacker Chris Reed dropped McWhorter for a 6-yard loss on 3rd and 1. Facing 4th and 7 from the 11, McWhorter tried to connect with a receiver near the goal line but the pass fell incomplete and the Trojans took over on downs.
Coffee came away with a 30-0 win. The shutout is the Trojans’ sixth of the year and the second this postseason. Coffee’s games at Jardine Stadium are now over for 2023; the Trojans travel to Cartersville next week for the semifinals. The Purple Hurricanes defeated the Jenkins Warriors 35-0 Friday night, setting up a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game.
Both Coffee and Cartersville are 13-0 on the season. This will be the third time in four years that the Trojans and Purple Hurricanes have played each other. In 2020, Cartersville defeated Coffee 24-17 in the semifinals. Last year, they won 56-28 in the quarterfinals. Each game was played in Cartersville.
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