FRANKLIN — Each game this season has seen the Cedartown Bulldogs improve on the one before it.

A close win over a 7A program? Done.

Coming back from a forced break because of COVID-19 concerns? Did it.

Routing their opponent for their home opener? Check.

When Friday night found the Bulldogs traveling south on U.S. 27 to face a 3-1 Heard County squad, Cedartown head coach Jamie Abrams was pleased to see his team improve once again.

With a completely dominating first quarter the Class 4A Bulldogs set the stage for another victory and captured their first shutout win of the season, topping the host Heard County Braves 42-0 in the non-region game.

“I always know that they’re going to play hard. They’re going to be as physical as possible,” Abrams said of AA Heard County. “I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys so that’s kind of what we expected. And I thought our kids did a good job responding to that, making the bus ride. Not bad.”

Harlem Diamond had four carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns, the second one coming on a 65-yard run in the second quarter. Quarterback Reece Tanner was 2-for-5 passing for 109 yards and two touchdowns, the longest on a 72-yard catch-and-run to Donald Knight that put a lid on the first half.

“I think we’ve shown some resiliency at times. I think we’ve got a better understanding this year than we had last year because we had a full summer and all that kind of stuff. So, I think, you know just resiliency and a little better execution on things,” Abrams said.

“I’m proud of this bunch and I’m proud of our bunch of seniors. It’s always fun when you enjoy being around the kids you’re coaching because you’re around them a lot, so just enjoy those guys.”

Cedartown (3-0) led 21-0 after the first quarter and had 154 yards of offense to Heard County’s 3.

CJ Washington had a 5-yard touchdown to cap the opening drive of the game, while Tanner’s 37-yard pass to Jordan Johnson went for six points on the Bulldog’s second possession after converting on fourth-and-1 thanks to a 4-yard run by Patrick Gardner.

Diamond had a two-yard sprint into the end zone on the third and final Cedartown drive of the quarter. Mario Maldonado was 3-for-3 on extra points and would make the Bulldog’s next two as well on the way to a 35-0 halftime lead.

Jai Barnes put continuous pressure on Braves quarterback Maurice Fench while Eli Barrow and Demarieo Sims helped shutdown Heard County’s running game.

Washington played his part on defense as well, wrapping up Fench on two occasions in the second quarter that ultimately ended Heard’s chances of getting close to the end zone.

Heard County (3-2) got the deepest into Cedartown territory in the third quarter, reaching the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line. The next play saw Knight dive for an errant throw from Fench and make the interception, sealing his team’s win for all intents and purposes.

Cedartown’s back-ups and younger guys played the rest of the game as a running clock was put into effect.

The abbreviated game could work out for the Bulldogs, who face a quick turnaround before taking on Calhoun on the road Thursday in a rescheduled contest from earlier in the season.

“I think it’ll be a good test for us to see where we are. I hate that it’s a short week but it’s a short week for them too, and there’s nothing we can do about it or they can do about it,” Abrams said, adding that a shortage of GHSA officials forced the teams to play on a Thursday.

The game will be the final non-region tune-up for both teams, with Cedartown jumping into Region 7-4A play on Oct. 1 at Pickens.

“I think right now it’s important that these kids play. So we’re just looking forward to that challenge,” Abrams said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Calhoun’s Phil Reeve Stadium.

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