In his first game coaching on Doc Ayers Field, first-year Cedartown head football coach Jamie Abrams came away with some good things to say about his team.
It was a shift in his feelings from the week before when the Bulldogs fell to rival Rockmart.
But while he had more encouraging thoughts about his players, he made it clear that it is up to them to go backwards or forwards after a close loss to Calhoun.
Calhoun junior Cole Speer recovered a fumble that led to the Jacket’s first touchdown against Cedartown and then reached out and nabbed an interception as the Bulldogs were driving down the field with less than 25 second left to play to seal a 14-7 win for Calhoun.
“We fought. And I think there was a time where we wouldn’t put up a fight,” Abrams said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction. We didn’t get it done tonight. I told them that that’s a class program. That’s a program that’s established. And that’s what you do. They made plays. We’ve got to get to the point where we’re making plays. Eventually we’re going to get there. Now when we get there is gonna be up to us.”
Jerrian Hames scored both Jacket touchdowns in the non-region game. The senior workhorse took the ball in from 13 yards out with less than four minutes left in the first half and then found a clear route on a short pass to the middle from Christian Lewis that led to a 55-yard catch-and-run for six points early in the final quarter.
It was a defensive grind for most of the first 36 minutes for both teams as they combined for one score in 17 possessions over three quarters of play.
Calhoun (2-1) came out gunning to get good yardage through the air against Cedartown but never found the same consistency passing as it had the week before at McCallie.
Calhoun, which had scored 41 against Dalton two weeks before and 22 against McCallie (Tenn.), was held to 95 net yards rushing and 155 passing while using one big play to score the game’s deciding touchdown.
“I thought our defense’s effort was outstanding. We’re playing with a bunch of young guys, some guys who probably need another year, a few more weeks of seasoning to be ready to play on Friday night, and they played their butts off,” Abrams said.
Holding a precarious 7-0 lead going into the final period, Calhoun took just three plays to move 59-yards on the third drive of the quarter, the bulk of which came on Hames’ big reception with 8:03 to play. Carlos Orozco made his second extra point of the night to put the Jackets ahead 14-0.
But Cedartown (0-2) didn’t give up, converting on three-and-13 to keep a seven-play, 63-yard drive alive on the next possession. Sophomore Harlem Diamond, who led all rushers with 13 carries for 102 yards, ran 30 yards down to the Calhoun 1 that set up Jayden Johnson’s 6-yard TD run.
The Bulldogs got the ball back on their own 26 after a Jacket punt on the ensuing drive and began frantically pushing the ball downfield with 2:27 left to play.
Conversions on fourth-and-7 and fourth-and-6 breathed new life into the Cedartown offense, with quarterback Reece Tanner hitting brothers Jeremiah and Jayden Johnson for 10 yards each during the drive.
Down at the Jackets’ 36, Tanner passed to the out route again, only this time the ball was tipped before wobbling in the air and landing into Speer’s clutches. With only 18.6 seconds left, Lewis took a knee and Cedartown allowed the clock to run out.
Lewis finished 11-of-24 passing for 150 yards and a touchdown, while Hames had 151 total offensive yards, 83 rushing and 68 receiving.
Cedartown’s first big miscue came in a fast-paced second quarter as Jakhari Robinson fumbled on a run through the middle on third-and-1 as Cole Speer came up from a scrum with the ball to put the Jackets on the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line.
Lewis found Hames on an 11-yard pass before Brendan Gray stretched out along the far sideline to reel in a 27-yard catch and put Calhoun inside the 10. A holding call two plays later put the Jackets back on the 13, but Hames used his quick feet to maneuver his way into the end zone.
Cedartown is on the road Friday for its third of four scheduled non-region contests at New Manchester in Douglasville.