Another week, another dominant victory for the Cedartown Bulldogs.
Cedartown football thumped Hampton 55-14 at Doc Ayers Field on Friday night in the first-round of the GHSA Class 4A State Playoffs. CHS raced out to a 42-0 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a blowout win.
It took no time for the Bulldogs to race out in front. A 27-yard touchdown run by Harlem Diamond with 9:35 to go in the first quarter gave Cedartown a 7-0 advantage. It was the first of three touchdown runs for the Bulldogs in the first ten minutes, as Diamond ran it in from 26 yards out and CJ Washington found pay dirt from 8 yards away to make it 21-0 after one period.
Stout defense and quick scores highlighted the second quarter as well. Patrick Gardner rumbled in from the 8-yard-line early in the second quarter to create a four-touchdown cushion. With 2:38 left in the first half, Diamond scored again on a 1-yard burst to make it a 35-0 ballgame.
The Bulldog defense outscored the Hampton offense in the first half as Cornell Medellin tallied a 38-yard pick six just before halftime, pushing the score to 42-0 at the midway point.
Cedartown gave backups plenty of playing time in the second half. Junior tailback Isaiah Johnson raced in from 10 yards out midway through the third quarter, making it 49-7. The Bulldog defensive reserves allowed a pair of rushing touchdowns to the Hornets in the second half, but it would not matter.
CHS would get the ball back late in the fourth quarter and went on another long drive. This time around, freshman Jaquaveon Price found the end zone on an 18-yard rush. The Bulldogs elected to kneel instead of kicking the extra-point, creating a 55-14 difference.
It marked the second week in a row that Cedartown scored 55 points in a game to honor the late MJ Whatley, who wore jersey no. 55.
Head coach Jamie Abrams said that the team continues to impress him in how they have rallied together after the loss of Whatley.
“It’s special to see, no doubt,” Abrams said after the first-round victory. “It’s tough to be a kid in 2021, but it’s even tougher to deal with something like losing a teammate, relative for some, and friend. His family fed us our pre-game meal (before the Heritage-Catoosa game), so that was really special. He is never far from our minds.”
Cedartown (9-1) averaged 11 yards per carry in the win over the Hornets (3-6), finishing with 428 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Diamond led the way with a 13-carry, 119-yard, three-touchdown performance.
“Yes, (Diamond) does a good job of setting up blocks and understands how to run the football,” Abrams said, “but he will be the first one to tell you that it starts with the offensive line and the other backs being willing to block for him.”
Gardner ran for 100 yards and one score on five touches. Georgia commit CJ
Washington added 29 yards and a touchdown on four carries while Price and Isaiah Johnson found pay-dirt as well. Khamarion Davis rushed for 62 yards on three touches, and freshman Sam Smith ran for 52 yards on two carries.
“Any time you are running the ball well, you have to start with the offensive line. Those guys have to be doing their job in order to run the ball. They don’t get enough credit when things go well and hear all the criticism when things don’t work out,” Abrams said.
“Jaylon Stephenson, Grant Dempsey, Peyton Nikolopoulus, Dustin Green, Daidren Poole, Demoe Sims, Edgar Martinez, and Zak Tillery have all done a great job preparing each week in order to make the offense successful.”
Quarterback Reece Tanner was 2-for-4 passing for 19 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception on Friday night. Both of his completions were reeled in by senior receiver Jordan Johnson. Eri Velasquez was 8-for-8 on extra points.
The Junkyard Dawg defense harassed Hampton all night long. Cedartown’s starting unit shut out the Hornet offense in the first half, shutting down a unit averaging over 21 points per game in the regular season.
“Obviously when you can keep them out of the end zone, it’s great,” Abrams said. “We do still have some little things to clean up, but those guys have also done a great job preparing for the offenses we will see each week.”
Abrams applauded the defensive players’ preparation and their willingness to show up early before school and stay after practices to watch film.
With the win over Hampton, Cedartown advances to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. It is the first time since 2002 that the Bulldogs have reached the second-round in back-to-back seasons.
It will not get any easier for Cedartown in the next round. They will host the two-seed from Region 1-4A, the Cairo Syrupmakers (7-3). Cairo, who finished region runners-up to Bainbridge, held off New Hampstead 33-31 in the first-round.
The Syrupmakers have won five games in a row and have only lost to south Georgia powers Thomasville, Fitzgerald, and the aforementioned Bearcats.
“At this point I don’t know a lot about them, but I know South Georgia football teams,” Abrams said. “If you are going to advance in the playoffs you have to deal with South Georgia football teams. I expect them to be able to run and be physical.”
Friday’s game at Doc Ayers Field marks the first ever meeting between the two storied programs. A win would move Cedartown to the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row.