CEDARTOWN — A fourth down and a country mile separated Rockmart from a chance to spoil Cedartown’s Doyle Kelly’s first game as a head football coach. But the Bulldogs didn’t let it happen.
Down by eight with the clock winding down the in the fourth quarter, Rockmart quarterback Dylan Bailey’s pass came up short, and Cedartown stood firm to win the seventh straight meeting between the Polk County rivals, 34-26.
“It was the ball game,” Kelley said. “We told our kids when they scored the last one (touchdown), and they recovered the onside kick, it was gut-check time. They did what they could do, but we made some big plays there at the end, too.”
Running back Tony Mathis and quarterback Trevon Wofford led Cedartown’s offensive attack with both players responsible for a pair of touchdowns. Rockmart’s Ant Lester scored twice for the Yellow Jackets.
Cedartown (1-0) took a 20-6 lead into the locker room at halftime and was up 34-13 in the fourth quarter before Rockmart was able to score twice and set up their final chance.
It was a disappointing end for Rockmart head coach Biff Parson, who said his team had plenty of chances to pick up the win.
“We gave ourselves a chance with the onsides, which was great,” he said. “But we had a hard time finding our rhythm offensively and we put our defense in the hole. I’m proud of the way they fought back, it shows that we have some good character and tough kids on this team... but it’s a tough loss because I know how much they wanted this, but we’ve got to move on to next week.”
The Bulldogs drew first blood in the annual rivalry as Mathis scored on a 5-yard run early on in the first quarter.
Cedartown took advantage of a fumble by Rockmart quarterback Dylan Bailey as Cruz Rodriguez recovered it deep in the Jackets’ territory.
The ensuing 25-yard drive ended when Wofford snuck it past the Jackets’ defensive line for a yard into the end zone. Rockmart was able to block the extra point attempt to give Cedartown the 13-0 lead.
Rockmart (0-1) got a turnover of its own later in the second quarter when Jabari Burge recovered a fumble at the Cedartown 3-yard line, setting up a one-play drive that saw Rockmart’s Markus Smith run in for the score.
Mathis immediately followed that up with a 99-yard kickoff return after a bobbled catch and recovery that saw him wind his way through the defense for another touchdown and the 20-6 lead.
The Jackets came out in the second half and after three-play opening drive scored when Ant Lester scored on a 67-yard touchdown run to bring the score within a touchdown. Cedartown then had a five-yard run by Kobe Pryor and a 22-yard pass from Wofford to Dakota Mason to score touchdowns and take a 34-13 lead.
Rockmart and Cedartown are back in action in Polk County next Friday with the return of the Battle of the Borders, this time being hosted in Polk County.