When ESPN added a game between Cartersville (Ga.) and Bartram Trail (Fla.) to its GEICO High School Football Kickoff series, it clearly foresaw interest driven by a matchup between five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville and four-star quarterback/athlete prospect Joey Gatewood. While Bartram Trail rallying from a 28-point first half deficit to force a fourth quarter tie deserves plenty of attention and praise, it was the game’s two biggest stars who shone brightest in Cartersville’s 52-47 victory.
Both players lived up to the hype in a Saturday night contest that was delayed by more than 90 minutes due to lightning near Cartersville. In fact, the statistics racked up by both players were astounding, particularly for Lawrence, who finished 18-of-22 for 403 yards and the four touchdowns, as well as a touchdown on a pass that got inside the five with a fumble which was recovered in the end zone.
How the result might have been different if that fumble had been recovered by Bartram Trail.
Instead, it was the bravura performance by Lawrence which stood out. The quarterback piloted the Purple Hurricane to 38 first-half points and a 21-point lead, tossing four touchdowns and racking up 286 yards through the air. He was 12-for-14 in the opening two periods and completed a series of passes that would have been worthy of acclaim from an NFL starter, let alone a high school passer.
There was this 45-yard pass on the run after he was flushed from the pocket … which was good for a touchdown:
There was this picture-perfect seam pass for another touchdown:
And for good measure, there was this bomb which set up another score and may have been his most impressive completion of the 12 from his first half.
His line through three quarters was only slightly less impressive: 15-for-19 for 344 yards and four touchdowns … with his team’s fifth coming on a recovered fumble after a reception that he threw near the goal line.
That Bartram Trail even had contact at the break was largely due to Gatewood, who put up impressive numbers in the first half while trading off on series as the Bears quarterback. Gatewood ran for a touchdown on his 77 yards on the ground while also completing 5-of-6 passes for 68 yards. It was a Gatewood drive to start the second half, and he led the Bears on another touchdown drive to pull within two possessions.
The following onside kick led to another quick Bartram Trail touchdown as Riley Smith caught fire and the Bears attacked the Hurricane defense before it knew what hit it.
That’s when things got really good. The teams traded punts before Cartersville drove down field behind Lawrence again, eventually punching in a touchdown that seemed to pad the scoreline enough to keep the Purple Hurricanes safe.
They weren’t. First Smith and then Gatewood led Bartram Trail drives down the field that resulted in touchdowns, sandwiched around a Cartersville punt, as the Bears stormed back to tie the game at the midway point of the fourth quarter.
True to form, Lawrence led his team down the field, eventually scrambling down to the goal line on a broken play before giving way to running back Rico Frye, who punched in the eventual game-winning score for his second touchdown of the game.
While most will focus on Lawrence’s collection of rather remarkable throws down the field, the in-game analysis was quick to focus on Bartram Trail coach Mark Sutherland and why he insisted on sticking with his quarterback rotation which kept Gatewood completely off the field half the time. While Riley Smith was impressive — the three-star, pro-style quarterback holds offers from the likes of Cincinnati and Western Kentucky — he couldn’t match the dynamic threat posed by his 6-foot-4, 230-pound teammate who gave the Cartersville defense headaches throughout.
Gatewood finished with 303 yards of total offense, ran for scores and completed a handful of impressive passes in the loss. The Auburn commit projects shades of Cam Newton, which is sure to have Tigers fans excited.
On Saturday, Tigers fans of all shades could be thrilled with the results, even if the Bears did end up on the short end.