CARROLLTON — The constant drizzle at Roy Richards Memorial Stadium on Friday night didn’t slow down Cedartown’s defense as the Junkyard Dawgs swamped Central-Carroll in a 34-7 road win for the Bulldogs.
CJ Washington and Demarieo Sims each had two sacks, while the host Lions were held to just 44 yards rushing and 143 total, most of which came on a late-game 70-yard touchdown pass with Cedartown holding a 34-0 lead.
The victory sets up a showdown this week as Cedartown will host Heritage-Catoosa on Friday with the winner taking the Region 7-4A title.
“Obviously the win is good, but there is always something to fix, always something to do. But we’re where we want to be, undefeated in the region,” Cedartown head coach Jamie Abrams said.
Junior running back Harlem Diamond continued his stellar season with three touchdowns on 19 carries and 174 yards. Xavier Hargrove scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter.
Central had a chance to tie the game up early in the second quarter with Cedartown ahead 7-0. With the Bulldogs looking at fourth-and-6 on their own 25, Reece Tanner’s punt was blocked by the Lions’ Malaki Massey and recovered by Kempris Bailey at the 8-yard line. Cedartown’s defense held on and Central’s 26-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Taidji Neal.
Jordan Johnson, who scored on a 62-yard pass from Tanner with 2:04 left in the first quarter, intercepted a pass by Central’s Devan Powell on the next Lion possession, setting up a short field capped off by Hargrove’s touchdown. Mario Maldonado’s extra point made it 14-0.
With the score 20-0, Cedartown (7-1, 4-0 7-4A)moved the ball methodically down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter as Diamond punched it in from a yard out for his second score of the night.
The Lions (4-5, 1-3) followed that with their biggest drive of the night as they started on their own 20 and took advantage of a pair of Cedartown personal foul penalties to move into Bulldog territory and inside the 25.
“I think we lead the nation in penalties. That’s the big one,” Abrams said. “We’ve got to clean up penalties, and it’s as a lot of pre-snap and post-snap stuff. it’s not things that are happening within the play. I told them at halftime that when things are even, that’s when things don’t go well.”
Central was stymied, however, after getting down to the 2-yard line as Jai Barnes had back-to-back tackles for a loss and Powell was chased out of the pocket before throwing an incomplete pass.
On fourth-and-goal, Powell made a quick pass off to a receiver who was tackled by Eli Barrow for a 3-yard loss to give Cedartown the ball on downs at the 7.
Diamond stepped right back into action on the ensuing drive, picking up gains of 25 and 37 yards before getting the call from three-and-a-half yards out to score his third and final touchdown with 5:30 left in the game.
Cedartown has allowed only 9.6 points per game this season, and Abrams said his defense has been a tight unit and risen to the occasion when called on.
“They just, they believe in each other,” Abrams said. “And then we challenged them and they got down there in the red zone a couple of times. We gave them the whole drive really so we just challenged them to bow up and fix it. Make it right.”
Tanner finished 4-of-9 for 111 yards passing and a touchdown.
Cedartown will host Heritage-Ringgold for the Region 7-4A championship on Friday at Doc Ayers Field. The Generals are 6-3 overall and 3-1 in region play after defeating Pickens 24-14 this past week.
The region champion will earn the No. 1 seed in the state playoffs and will face the Region 5-4A No. 4 seed — likely Hampton — in the first round on Nov. 12.