The quarterback for the Clemson Tigers, Trevor Lawrence, is a legend in his own right. His high school career was full of accolades and awards, but he still lost two games to Jacksonville’s legendary high school Football Team What does it feel like to beat a legend?
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – Trevor Lawrence has a lot of qualities that NFL clubs like, but one sticks out above the rest: he almost never loses.
Lawrence is 86-4 as a starter in the NFL preseason, including 52-2 at Cartersville (Georgia) high school and 34-2 at Clemson, and was flawless in the regular season (68-0). He’s only lost four times in 22 postseason games, so quarterbacks who have defeated him head-to-head are few and far between.
Joe Burrow, who led LSU to a 42-25 victory over Clemson in the national title game after the 2019 season and was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft and Justin Fields, who led Ohio State to a 49-28 victory over the Tigers in a semifinal game this past season and was selected 11th overall in the most recent draft, are two easy names to remember.
But what about the other two?
Although one of them went on to play college football they aren’t exactly household names. Unless you live in the Atlanta suburbs of Buford or Roswell, you’ve probably never heard of Luke Humphrey or Jake Smith, the two High School quarterbacks who defeated Lawrence.
You could see your face painted on a mural downtown if you’re a true local hero like Trevor Lawrence in Cartersville, Georgia. Icon Sportswire/Jeff Robinson
Trevor Lawrence’s first defeat was handed by Luke Humphrey and Buford HS.
Humphrey, unlike Lawrence, was not a high-profile recruit. To start for the Buford Wolves, he had to beat out a sophomore during camp, but he did have one thing in common with Lawrence in 2014: he hadn’t lost a game.
Humphrey had passed for 1,116 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions as Buford was 14-0 going into the 2014 Class AAAA quarterfinal against Cartersville High School Humphrey had passed for a season-high 177 yards the week before in a semifinal win against Marist. Buford’s true strength, though, was defense. The Wolves have seven shutouts under their belt and have only let up more than 12 points in a game twice.
The fact that Lawrence was a freshman who had never faced a defense like the one he would see that night was crucial for Humphrey and his colleagues. Lawrence was a ninth-grader, despite being very talented and ultimately becoming the nation’s No. 1 recruit.
Buford thought they’d be able to take advantage of it until the game began.
“Everyone was praising Trevor,” Humphrey said. “He was a first-year student. He’s tossed for this many touchdowns and yards. For a true freshman, he already had some impressive numbers. Our defense was similarly confident, as if to say, ‘Oh, it’s a true freshman,’ and wasn’t too concerned.
“So, we arrive, and the kid is 6-foot-5 and can throw it in warm-ups like a pro. He fired a few of incomplete passes on the opening drive, but they were accurate. We were like, ‘All right, this kid’s the real thing, even though he’s a true freshman.’ He had some receivers drop some passes, and we were like, ‘All right, this kid’s the real deal, even though he’s a true freshman.’”
Despite this, Buford established a 14-3 third-quarter lead by putting pressure on Lawrence, causing mistakes, and maintaining possession of the ball. It might have been a larger lead if the Wolves hadn’t committed so many offensive errors, with Humphrey’s 57-yard touchdown throw to tight end Isaac Nauta (who played at Georgia and is on the Green Bay Packers’ training camp roster) being wiped out by an illegal motion penalty.
Humphrey, who passed for 126 yards, added, “We did a play-action pass.” “I was rolling out, and I had a few guys open, and Isaac Nauta had two people on his back, 40 yards down the field, and I threw one to him, and he made a play, and he scored the touchdown.”
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Late in the third quarter, Buford clinched the victory when safety Steven Reese intercepted Lawrence and returned the ball to the 3-yard line, where running back Joshua Thomas scored his third 1-yard touchdown of the game three plays later, putting the Wolves up 17-3. (they won 27-3).
On that interception, Buford linebacker Konnor Houston accomplished just that. Humphrey, on the other hand, recalls much more.
“Konnor Houston pulled back on Trevor Lawrence as he was ready to make the tackle and made a fairly significant impact on him,” Humphrey said. “He [Lawrence] jumped up straight away, and we were thinking, ‘That kid is tough.’”
“In today’s environment, that would almost certainly be a penalty.”
Lawrence isn’t going to forget about it.
“It’s one of the most difficult hits I’ve ever taken,” he added.
Check out the video of the play below, which starts at 3:51 with Lawrence in purple and ends at 3:56 with the hit.
Despite the fact that Buford went on to win the state championship by defeating St. Pius X Catholic 55-10, Humphrey said the victory against Cartersville is the game he remembers the most from that season.
“Beating Cartersville in the final four with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback was definitely the Hardest Game to win this thing,” Humphrey said. “It was more of a championship game than a big-time contest.”
Since then, what has Humphrey been up to?
The next spring, Humphrey graduated and enrolled at the University of West Georgia. He ultimately moved to North Georgia University and currently works in logistics. And sure, he and his high school friends do talk about that game whenever they get together.
“Playing Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville definitely gets brought up more than any other game,” Humphrey said. “Konnor Houston is one of those people that likes to boast a little bit. Putting Trevor Lawrence on his back is one of his most unforgettable experiences.
“It wasn’t a tackle or an interception; it was, ‘Oh, I hit Trevor Lawrence,’” he said.
Lawrence’s career has been carefully watched by Humphrey since that night.
“Beating someone of that level was very amazing,” Humphrey, a Georgia Bulldogs and atlanta falcons fan, said. “It was clearly a collaborative effort.” Now I’m pulling for him. I have the distinction of having defeated him in a head-to-head match, but I’ve been rooting for him ever since. Even after he finished from high school and I had graduated, I want for him to succeed and win. I’m not a Clemson supporter. When he was on the field, I was rooting for Clemson. Now, I’m not a Jacksonville fan, but I’m rooting for them.
“It’ll be something I remember for the rest of my life. And maybe boast about a little bit to others.”
Lawrence’s second defeat came thanks to Jake Smith and Blessed Trinity Catholic.
The Cartersville Hurricanes fell at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School on Nov. 11, 2017, in Trevor Lawrence’s last high school game. Getty Images/Scott Cunningham
Smith has an even greater story: in 2017, he delivered a game-winning touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in a Class AAAA second-round playoff game against Lawrence and Cartersville.
The Hurricanes’ 41-game winning run and pursuit for three straight state championships came to an end with Blessed Trinity’s 21-17 triumph, and it was Lawrence’s last high school game.
Smith was a junior who had put up some impressive numbers for the Blessed Trinity Titans, including a 70% completion percentage, 27 touchdowns, and one interception, which came on a deflection, according to former Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin.
Unlike Lawrence, who was the nation’s top recruit and was set to arrive at Clemson in January of the next year, Smith was not a highly sought-after college recruit. At least not as a quarterback. Some colleges were interested in him as a safety, but he ultimately received an offer to play quarterback at Air Force, which he accepted in 2020.
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Smith, who turned down an interview request from Air Force’s sports information department, started at both positions for Blessed Trinity and had a great game as a safety against Cartersville that night, blowing up a wide receiver screen with a huge hit.
“Jake came charging out of the center of the field, full speed, and he got up under the screen, and the [receiver] turned straight into him,” McFarlin recalled. “And as Jake slammed into him, he exploded. That was a big gain for our team’s sideline. I’m happy the child was OK, but it took him a long to get back up. Jake made a number of similar huge plays.”
The touchdown pass was the biggest of them all.
Lawrence’s Hurricanes had recovered from a 14-3 hole to lead 17-14 with less than a minute to play. With approximately 20 seconds left, Smith drove the Titans to the Cartersville 26-yard line, and McFarlin opted to go for it on third down. If that n’t work he’d kick a fourth-quarter field goal and hope for the best in overtime.
He didn’t want to work overtime in Cartersville, however. They were 31-point underdogs in a game they weren’t expected to have a chance to win, according to McFarlin.
The Titans had done a good job running the ball all night and remained in a run-heavy configuration with two tight ends, two running backs, and one receiver. Smith faked a pass to running back Steele Chambers (now an Ohio State running back and linebacker), while receiver Ryan Davis (a 5-10 junior who went on to play at UAB) utilized a double move to get open.
With 12 seconds remaining, Smith connected Davis in the end zone to take the lead.
“It was simply one of those times when we felt like we needed to take the shot in order to win,” McFarlin said.
Lawrence was held to 142 yards and one score throwing by Blessed Trinity’s defense all night. Cartersville had scored at least 35 points in each of its previous 11 games and had scored more than 50 points seven times.
“I felt like the advantage sort of shifted to our sideline as the game became tighter, the longer the game went,” McFarlin said. “They weren’t accustomed to staying in the game as long as they did.” By the early-to-mid third quarter, most of their games were finished. We had limited them to one offensive touchdown when they were averaging well over 40 points per game.
“I believe the strain of that came out a little late in the game. There were a few of dips. It was simply one of those situations where the coaches said if you played them 10 times, you’d lose nine of them, and we only won one.”
In his whole career, Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has only lost four games: two in college and two in high school. Icon Sportswire/David Rosenblum
On the two high school defeats, Lawrence says
It’s a bit unfair to pick out two defeats and ask if they stay with Lawrence, given all the games and titles he’s won, but he was courteous and consented, and he did recall certain facts and people.
They still sting, by the way.
“They’re always there for you,” Lawrence said. “When you’re a winner and a competitor, that’s the kind of thing you remember. I mainly reflect on the fact that we won two state titles and had a fantastic four years, but I also consider what we might have accomplished.
“The first one was in the semifinals, and I thought I had a chance to win.” But [Buford] was unquestionably a superior squad than ours. But knowing that we were the superior team and simply didn’t play well my senior year was a bummer. My last year, for example, it seemed like we had the greatest squad, but we didn’t finish.
“I’m sure you remember them.”
Perhaps now more people will remember Humphrey and Smith as well.
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