CARTERSVILLE, Ga. Rivals100 running back Richard Samuel had been having his way against teams early this season as he averaged more than 200 yards rushing and four touchdowns a game. Things did not come as easy for him against cross-town rival Cartersville as they loaded up to stop him, but when his number was called, he answered.
Samuel, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound versatile athlete that stars on both sides of the ball for the Cass Colonels is still only 16 years old, but he is a senior and the leader of his team.
Friday night was the biggest game of the year for Cass and they had it circled on their calendar for months.
"We worked hard all summer for this game," said Samuel after the emotional 34-7 win. Last year Cass had the lead late in the game only to fall to the Purple Hurricanes of Cartersville 41-34 in overtime.
The Colonels were not going to let that happen again this year.
"We thought about that game all season last year and that is what we thought about this summer while working out and training," Samuel entailed. "We used that to motivate us, prepare us and get us ready for this big game."
Cartersville loaded up the line and controlled the line of scrimmage while daring Cass to run the ball in the first half. Things opened up in the second half and Samuel showed why he is one of the premier players in the country.
Samuel's name was called on a drive in the third quarter to make a play and he did just that. After running for four yards on first down, Coach Rick Casko fed his star the ball again on second down.
"I just took the ball and I thought I could get outside on them," Samuel said about his game changing 76-yard explosive touchdown run. "I used my stiff-arm twice to get past the linebacker and safety and then I outran another guy to the corner and then I knew I could get to the end zone."
He called it right for the most part, but he also made a guy miss on a nice cutback before cruising that last 20 yards. That really was the dagger in the heart and if that wasn't, then the next play was after Cass converted the two-point conversion to take a 17-0 lead.
Cass then surprised Cartersville with an onside kick and recovered. Cass drove down and scored again to make it 24-0 and they went on to win 34-7.
Samuel, the No. 2 rated prospect in Georgia finished with 156 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown at running back while recording 10 tackles and two pass break ups on offense.
"This was a big win for us and we were ready for this game," Samuel said as he signed autographs after the game. "We stayed together, we played as a team and we just kept giving it everything we had."
Samuel definitely gave it all he had and he did not get off the field until the third quarter as he played offense, defense and special teams throughout the entire first half.
He showed a great burst when running the ball Friday night and he showed a lot of quickness at linebacker as well.
Samuel stayed with the tight end and slot receiver in coverage on defense while carrying the load at running back as well. Over three games, Samuel has more than 800 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns. He played big and showed why he had 30-plus offers before choosing Georgia back in January.
In the end, Samuel said the win was big, but not just for him, for the team.
"We came in here believing that we could win this game and we did that. We had some good momentum and with this win we will have even more going into next week."
"Everybody wanted this win tonight. The fans showed up, we showed up, the coaches did great and we all got a great win for the school. It is exciting for the community."
Samuel was the star, but a 2010 prospect emerged
Of course the lights shined on Samuel Friday night as many were there to see him perform, but sophomore quarterback definitely emerged as one to watch for the class of 2010.
Blake Sims is the Cass quarterback and he is going to be one we will hear a lot about over the next couple of years.
Sims is a 6-foot, 168-pound athlete with good touch on the ball, great leadership qualities and a lot of athletic ability. He is young - this was only his third start at quarterback - but you would not have known that when watching him play.
He controlled the game and the tempo from the beginning and played like a veteran.
"I would not say I was too nervous before this game, but I had a few butterflies," Sims admitted. "I played some free safety and wide receiver last year, so I am just getting started at quarterback."
He looks like a natural under center and he made some very big plays in the big win. He converted a big third down in the first half after a Cartersville turnover with his legs before throwing a touchdown pass.
Late in the game he broke it wide open with a 64-yard touchdown run right up the middle. The third touchdown for Cass was on a beautiful throw by Sims and he showed nice touch and decision making skills throughout the night.
"I felt comfortable back there and I just did what my coaches asked me to," he said. "I have to give credit to the offensive line tonight because they played great."
"Cartersville was really coming after us and trying to stop Samuel, so we knew we all had to step up. We believed in ourselves and we got the big victory."
Speaking of Samuel, Sims could not say enough about his play.
"It was really nothing different tonight. He plays hard every play, every down and every game. He always gives everything he has to the team and he is our leader. He just kept running hard and when something opened up, he took advantage of it. Richard can do it all."
Samuel may be the guy for Cass getting the attention now, but Sims is next in line. The talented sophomore finished 7 of 10 passing for 98 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 128 yards on nine carries and another touchdown. He also threw a beautiful pass across field for a two-point conversion.
Two juniors gave it all they had
Cartersville has two talented juniors that will be major college prospects next year. Donavan Tate plays quarterback and he did not get any help Friday night as he made a couple big plays that were nullified by penalties and then he put a beautiful 48-yard pass on the money that would have been a touchdown, but it was dropped in the end zone.
Running back Morgan Alexander ran for more than 100 yards and showed some nice cuts and good speed while scoring the Hurricanes' only touchdown, but he had a fumble that he remembers the most.
Both athletes are getting attention from many schools already, but they were not thinking about recruiting after the loss. Tate, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete was a little down, but he did all he could for the team.
"I gave it all I had and it was a very tough loss," Tate said after going 6-16 passing for 96 yards at quarterback.
Tate will likely play another position in college and he looked smooth with the ball in his hand when running the ball. Wide receiver could be the spot for him and he showed his ability to do damage in the open field. He finished the night with 102 yards on 16 caries.
Alexander (5-10, 180) is a smaller back with a lot of quickness. He likes to bounce it outside and hit the corner. He is not an inside guy at this time, but he showed speed to burn Friday night.
Both of these juniors will be getting attention from college recruiters over the next 16 months.
Keep an eye on Jon Jannsen
Alabama-Birmingham is the only school to offer Cartersville linebacker Jon Jannsen at this time, but he is getting attention from some other programs like Georgia Tech.
Jannsen, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker was constantly around the football Friday night and he showed a good nose for the ball. He is a downhill player that loves to attack the ball carrier.
He lines up in the middle of the defense and he was the leader of that Purple Hurricane defense. His play is solid and his academics are strong.
The Blazer offer is all he has right now, but others could arrive over the coming months. He is senior to keep an eye on this fall.