By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Photographer | Published December 20, 2018
ATLANTA—Standing just outside the west end zone, the Blessed Trinity High School cheerleaders raised a 10-foot by 18-foot banner with white and gold letters outlined in black, bearing the pre-game charge, “Defend the Title.” Moments later the Roswell Catholic school’s team of 70 players ran through it, as they prepared for the Dec. 12 Class AAAA state football finals against Cartersville High School. Four quarters later Blessed Trinity would leave Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 23-9 victory, its second consecutive state championship and a perfect 15-0 season.
Cartersville put its first three points on the board after kicking a field goal with 4:18 left in the first quarter. Within the first two minutes of the second quarter, Blessed Trinity quarterback Jake Smith would complete a 9-yard touchdown pass to fullback Ryan Dupont. With Ethan Chauvin’s successful point after touchdown (PAT), Blessed Trinity took a 7-3 lead, which would stand through halftime.
Cartersville kicker Oscar Hernandez booted his second field goal of the game with just over 4:00 left in the third quarter to pull his team within one point at 7-6. That score would hold up to the beginning of the fourth quarter.
About a minute into the fourth quarter, the game started to turn in Blessed Trinity’s favor. During punt formation, the Cartersville long snapper sent the ball sailing over the head of Hernandez. Blessed Trinity was unable to recover the ball for a touchdown before the ball scooted out of the end zone, which resulted in a safety, and a score of 9-6.
Since Cartersville had to kick off to Blessed Trinity after the safety from their 20-yard-line, Blessed Trinity was able to get field position close to midfield. When the Blessed Trinity drive appeared to be going in the wrong direction, particularly after two back-to-back delay of game penalties, Blessed Trinity’s Smith threw a touchdown pass to his streaking wide receiver, Ryan Davis. With 9:00 left in the fourth quarter, the lead was extended to 16-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cartersville took over, but they fumbled on the first play of the series deep in their own territory.
“After the safety, we were watching their sideline and we knew we had them,” said Blessed Trinity senior defensive end Jr. Bivens. “When Ryan (Davis) forced the fumble to give us the ball on the Cartersville 28-yard-line, the rest of the team knew that we had to bury them.”
Bivens also remembered his freshman year and the 2015 state finals in the Georgia Dome. Blessed Trinity lost to Westminster in overtime after squandering a 15-point fourth quarter lead. “We knew that we needed to keep pushing and keep scoring, so they had no chance to come back,” he said.
With just over 5:00 remaining in the game, Blessed Trinity took advantage of the Cartersville turnover by moving down the field into scoring position. Smith sneaked it in behind his offensive line from 1 yard out for a touchdown to give the team a 23-6 lead after the PAT.
Cartersville would score its final three points on a field goal with 2:45 left in the game, but it was too little, too late. The Blessed Trinity defense fulfilled the assignments requested of their defensive coordinators and they were able to hold a Cartersville team that had averaged 38 points per game to three field goals.
“These kids understood the value of hard work and they had great focus,” said head coach Tim McFarlin, as he reflected over the season and Blessed Trinity’s team. “Their chemistry was extremely good and they all enjoyed playing with each other.”
While McFarlin was excited to hoist the championship trophy once again, he added, “We don’t dwell on the end result. Our focus is on the process, which includes practice, doing the right thing and making it something fun for the players.”
Smith completed 10 of his 18 passes for 156 yards. With seven catches for 135 yards, a receiving touchdown, four solo tackles and a forced fumble, Davis was named Most Valuable Player for the game.
Senior running back Steele Chambers had 21 carries for 91 yards. During the euphoria that followed the game, an emotional Chambers walked around the field clutching his helmet in one hand and the silver championship trophy with its black base in the other. He extended the trophy to teammates as they pressed their lips against it for a victory kiss.
“Our team has gone through so much together, and kissing that trophy just made everyone realize how it was all worth it,” said Chambers.
He also offered an opinion on why the team was able to return to the state finals and win it all.
“What made this team so successful was our love for one another. When you have the ability to tell your brother next to you how much you love them, and commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to help them succeed, you can overcome anything,” said Chambers. “That’s what sets us apart from the rest. That’s why we’re two-time state champions. Love!”