There’s plenty of competition out there for the Cedartown Bulldogs to face, even without having to play against region foes. Whether it be the big game coming up next week on August 23 when the Bulldogs face Rockmart, or heading up to the Dalton area to face Southeast Whitfield.
As the season is set to get underway, head coach Doyle Kelley knows all too well the challenges the team faces. The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes and Troup County Tigers of the world are going to be additional hills to climb in 2019.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Kelley said. “The top four teams in our region are going to have a chance to go pretty far.”
He has a point. Cedartown and Sandy Creek both got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last year, but Troup County made it all the way to the semifinals, and Cartersville lost in the state title game to Blessed Trinity, who beat the Tigers and Canes back to back.
“Anything is possible in this region,” he said. “It is full of good competition. So who knows?”
Without a doubt, the Bulldogs have a lot to overcome this year if they want to get to the playoffs. Here’s a rundown (in the order on the schedule) of what Cedartown faces in the season ahead:
The opener for the region on the road is one of the toughest of the season. The Purple Hurricanes over the past three seasons have a three win advantage over the Bulldogs, and hadn’t played each other before that since 2011.
Cartersville’s under new leadership this year after former head coach Joey King left for a college job, the school brought in only the fourth head football coach in 33 years. Conor Foster took the team over last winter after being promoted from the job of defensive coordinator for the Canes, part of the team’s state title runs in the past years.
King left the school after he compiled a 67-4 record in five seasons.
He’s the new wide receivers coach at Coastal Carolina University.
Cartersville comes into the game reloaded with a trio of seniors who are already on the AJC’s Class 4-A all-state team announced in recent days.
Those were Quarterback Tee Webb, who is already a Louisville commit, offensive lineman Jonah Gambill, a Memphis commit, and defensive back Marko Dudley, who holds offers from several schools, all made the team.
Last season, Cartersville bested Cedartown by just a point.
Though they return several talented athletes, the Bulldogs have a chance against the Canes who have opponents they faced and beat handily ahead of them before the region starts in Allatoona, Luella, McNair and Cherokee ahead.
Cartersville comes off another successful year, going 14-1 and to the state title game in 2018 after an undefeated run through region play. They beat Stephens County, Ridgeland, Baldwin and Marist through four rounds of the playoffs before Blessed Trinity lost in the state championship game 23-9.
The two teams play to open the region on September 27.
Cedartown comes home to face the LaGrange Grangers and celebrate their 2019 Homecoming in their second region contest of the year.
This one will likely be a tough fight after the Bulldogs took a 9-6 win over the their 5-4A foe who over three seasons hasn’t been able to best Cedartown at all. They went 2-8 last season during head coach Chuck Gibbs first season.
The squad includes Jonathan Sutton, a highly recruited Granger senior who hasn’t committed to a school yet.
Additionally, the team plays against Class AA State Champion Heard County to open their season, and their schedule includes Callaway, Hampton and Central Carroll before they play the Bulldogs.
Of note, the Grangers will be this year’s homecoming game as well when the Bulldogs return from the road against Cartersville on October 4.
Cedartown is on the road against Central Carroll as the region continues, and they’ll face a quarterback they aren’t used to seeing: Kashif Taylor.
Taylor worked his way to earning the starting spot for the Lions after he brought is talents to Central via a transfer for his final season. He’ll have several veteran running backs behind him like Abrin Daniel and Shane Bruce, who also plays as an outside linebacker.
Central is a veteran squad deep with seniors this year, set to graduate 17 players off the roster with the Class of 2020.
The good news: historically, the Bulldogs have played the Lions about even over the past six seasons, holding a 3-3 record against Central since 2014, when the two teams returned to region play against one another in Class 3-A before they were moved up to Class 4-A.
Central went 2-8 in the regular season last year and 1-5 in region play with their only win against LaGrange in 5-4A.
The past three seasons have all marked wins for the Bulldogs. They face each other on October 11 as Cedartown travels to Carrollton.
There’s a lot of hype around the Troup County Tigers this year.
Kobe Hudson, the 4-star receiver for the Tigers, is set to make a mark is heading to Auburn. Andy Boykin is on the fence but likely headed to play for the Tigers just across the state line as well.
They’ve got Tyson Duncan as a sophomore quarterback, and plenty of seniors and juniors in key positions to keep Troup near the top of the pecking order.
The Bulldogs are 1-2 against the Tigers in the past three seasons the teams have played each other in the region, and prior to that only played against each other for four seasons from 1970 to 1973.
Cedartown last year took a 20-13 loss to the Tigers in Kelley’s second year as head coach. This is Troup head coach Tanner Glisson’s fifth year as head coach.
In one of the best years in recent memory for the Tigers, they went 12-2 last season and finished second in region play behind Cartersville.
Troup went three rounds into the playoffs beating Oconee County, Pickens and Cairo before they were knocked off by eventual state champions Blessed Trinity in a 51-35 loss in the semifinals.
Last year, the Tigers got the advantage on Cedartown at home and the Bulldogs took a 20-13 loss.
The two teams face off at home on October 25 after the Bulldogs get a bye week.
The Bulldogs face a big challenge in Sandy Creek this year.
Cedartown faces a defense that includes South Carolina commit Joey Hunter at cornerback, and Justin Beadles who is heading to Arizona State. Jordan Mitchell has a offer from Maryland. Ahmad Jackson is heading to Liberty University too.
There’s not much tradition between the Bulldogs and Patriots. The two teams in the past year have split with the Bulldogs, with the only win in three seasons in the same region coming during Doyle Kelley’s big first season in a two-point game, where Cedartown turned it around in the second half.
Last year, Sandy Creek took a 31-28 win over Cedartown. They went 7-4 overall with a third-place spot in the region, and went into the first round of the playoffs with a loss to North Oconee in their only game in Class 4A play.
Brett Garvin, like Kelley, is coming into his third season with Sandy Creek.
The two teams face each other on November 1.
It’s senior night in the final game of the season for Cedartown. The Panthers come into the contest with at least nine seniors finishing out their season on the road against the Bulldogs.
Bradyn Swinson at defensive end is part of this year’s recruiting class recognized as a top player in the state by 247Sports.com, but is thus far the only one who is getting looks.
KJ Burton remains a leader under center for the Panthers, along with senior running back Joshual Milfort and wide receivers Jamonte Mason and Davonne Joseph helping round out the offense.
As the Bulldogs come home one more time for the regular season, they have a lot of positives going for them.
Cedartown holds a 2-1 advantage in the past three seasons over Chapel Hill, and they’ve only faced each other since region play began in 2016 with reclassification and organization.
Last year, Cedartown took a 45-14 win over the Panthers, and the year prior won 47-14. The Panthers in 2018 went 6-4 for the year, and 2-4 in region play finishing just behind the Bulldogs in fifth place.
The final game of the regular season and the region is at home on November 8 and is Senior Night for the Bulldogs.