When Jamie Abrams was hired as Cedartown’s head football coach earlier this year, Bulldog fans were not sure what the new style of play would be.
Through four games, it is evident that Abrams and his staff are trying to bring back an old-school style for CHS football. A strong run game, an attacking defense, and consistent special teams play have highlighted Cedartown’s 2020 campaign so far, coming into this week’s Homecoming game with a 2-2 record.
Abrams said the Bulldogs made the most of Friday’s open date and the week-off by working on themselves ahead of this week’s region opener.
“I’m still teaching them how to practice. We are going more into our routines, focusing on ourselves, and covering fundamentals,” Abrams said. “I think it’s smart to do that during a bye week.”
The first-year Cedartown head coach did not dispute the claim that the offense is centered around running the ball.
“It’s definitely no secret that we are a ground-based offense, but we’ve only met our goal once in rushing,” Abrams said. “We had some early struggles with some young guys up front but they are gelling, getting bigger, and getting better with extra reps. Still, there’s room to improve our rushing attack.”
As a team, the Bulldogs have ran for 842 yards on 158 rushes, making for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. All ten of their offensive touchdowns have come on the ground. The “running back by committee” philosophy has generated success, with junior tailback Harlem Diamond leading the way in yardage with 237 yards on 37 carries. Sophomore Patrick Gardner has rushed for 167 yards on 22 attempts as well.
Junior athlete CJ Washington, a four-star recruit committed to the University of Georgia, has recorded three rushing scores and 118 yards on only 14 carries. Jayden Johnson is nearing 100 yards rushing while other contributors, like junior Corben Cuzzort and sophomore Xavier Hargrove, each have over 50 rushing yards and one score through four games.
Although Cedartown heavily favors the ground game, the Bulldogs have the ability to pass as well. Sophomore Reece Tanner has been the main culprit, completing 12 of his 28 pass attempts this season for 121 yards.
Only three players have caught a pass this season for CHS, but Jayden Johnson has thrived out wide. The South Carolina pledge has reeled in 8 catches for 106 yards, leading the team in catches and receiving yards.
Whether the offensive staff is calling a pass play or a run play, the one constant in the 2020 campaign has been routine substitutions. Abrams admitted that this was by design to help the team down the road.
“I think with high school football in the year 2020 you could lose anybody to non-injury at any time,” Abrams said. “That makes it that much more important to have depth. We are trying to build young guys up and give them some in-game reps.
“It’s been big having older and younger guys contributing, and plus it bodes well for the future giving them those opportunities now,” Abrams said. “We’ve been playing sophomores on both sides of the ball, and even a freshmen or two on defense.”
Defense has been the heart and soul of the Bulldog team thus far. Sophomore linebacker Eli Barrow leads the team with 35 total tackles. He holds a sizeable lead in that department over the second place man, defensive lineman Jai Barnes, who has 21.
Washington, a projected college linebacker, has recorded 10 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Jayden Johnson and Tanner have each picked off two passes while Tanner and Dashawn Ware have also recovered fumbles early in this season.
“The defense has done some good things this year,” Abrams said. “They probably have had more cohesiveness than the offense. They’ve helped the other side of the ball by giving them short fields, and I’m glad we were finally able to capitalize on those short fields starting (against Heard County).”
Abrams mentioned that, after all the events of the early season, he is ready to make it to the second half of the season.
“I’m looking forward to getting through some of these distractions,” Abrams said. “We’ve had Senior Night and Fall Break, and now we have Homecoming. After all this, I think it’ll be a lot calmer and easier to focus on the region schedule.”
Following last week’s bye, Cedartown will try to keep the wheels churning this Friday when they host Pickens. The Region 7-4A opener also serves as the 2020 Homecoming game at Doc Ayers Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cedartown Memorial Stadium.