Now that they are playoff-eligible, the Bulldogs have a tough task ahead of them in the first round.
Cedartown will face off with the no. 5 team in the state, the Marist War Eagles. That game will be played at Marist School in north Atlanta.
For Head Coach Doyle Kelley and some of the elder Bulldogs, this is a familiar opponent for the postseason. Just two years ago, Cedartown saw its season come to an end. A senior-heavy Bulldog squad made too many mistakes to knock off Marist, falling 31-18 on the road in the second round.
This time around, though, Cedartown is ready for the opportunity. “Ever since 2017, I have been wanting another shot at Marist,” said Coach Kelley. “We want to bring some Bulldog football up to Atlanta and see how we hold up against them.”
Much like in 2017, the War Eagles are a very talented team once again. Though Coach Alan Chadwick’s offense is still triple-option based, new quarterback Connor Cigelske brings a new threat for opposing defenses: his arm. Cigelski averages around 200 total yards per game and has accounted for well over 20 touchdowns this season. Marist has two impressive fullbacks in Lincoln Parker and Matthew Dunmon. In addition, the War Eagles have tall receivers such as Josh Moore, Derek McDonald, and Matthew Houghton.
According to GPB Sports, new offensive coordinator Paul Etheridge has integrated shotgun and spread concepts into the offense and the results have been very positive. On the other hand, their defense is still top notch: Marist allowed only 9.5 points per game in the regular season.
Marist started 2019 with two big blowouts, including a 49-0 win at Lovett and a 45-8 win over Canyon Springs (Nevada). The War Eagles followed these victories up with a 14-0 win over Westminster and a 30-0 upset of rival St. Pius X. They started region played with a 35-20 win against White County, which would be seceded by a 56-13 thumping of Chestatee and a 45-7 win versus West Hall.
In taking on the three other playoff teams from Region 7-4A, the War Eagles went 2-1. After easily handing Denmark a 37-14 loss, Marist shut out Flowery Branch 27-0 before hosting no. 2 Blessed Trinity.
The region championship game, played on Nov. 1, saw the War Eagles fall in overtime, 33-30, to the Titans. Despite losing to Blessed Trinity, Marist still secured the two-seed in Region 7 and a home playoff game.
What might be most important is that the War Eagles had last Friday off. The no. 5 team in the state has had two weeks to prepare for the Cedartown Bulldogs.
Cedartown has proven time and time again that they can hang with the “big dogs” this season. They did well in the first half against Cartersville and had chances late to upset Sandy Creek. The Bulldogs must understand that, this week, it is simply “survive and advance.”
To advance, Cedartown will have to upset one of the best teams in the state. Though they enter as 24-point underdogs (CalPreps), if the Bulldogs can establish their brand of football they can beat anyone in the state.
For those unable to make it to Friday’s first-round playoff matchup, WGAA Radio (106.1 FM and AM 1340) out of Cedartown will broadcast the game. The game can also be found on the NFHS Network online.