Stout defense, solid passing, and two 100-yard rushing performances propelled Cedartown to a region-opening victory on Friday night.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 1-0) steamrolled Pickens (3-2, 0-1) on the road, shutting out the Dragons 31-0 in the Region 7-4A contest.
The Bulldogs raced out to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when junior quarterback Reece Tanner connected with senior Jordan Johnson on a 32-yard scoring strike. The Tanner-to-Johnson connected would go on to produce five completions for 90 yards on the night.
Cedartown found paydirt again five minutes later, this time via the ground game.
Junior fullback Patrick Gardner would not be denied, breaking several tackles en route to a 38-yard touchdown run. The ensuing extra point by Mario Maldonado was converted, creating a 14-point cushion.
Coach Jamie Abrams’ squad opened the second quarter with another scoring drive. This time it was capped off by a long run by junior Khamarion Davis, who sprinted in from 33 yards out to make it a three-possession game.
Cedartown’s defense continued to shut down Pickens’ offense throughout the second period, stymying any momentum that the Dragons tried to manufacture. The Bulldogs got the ball back, drove downfield, and added one more score before halftime.
Maldonado, the senior kicker, drilled a 41-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the half to put CHS up 24-0.
Pickens had a successful third period defensively, holding Cedartown scoreless over the 12-minute quarter. However, they were unable to make up any ground against a smothering Junkyard Dawg unit.
The Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter with a long drive into Dragon territory. After Georgia commit CJ Washington burst a big run carrying several Pickens defenders on his back, the senior tailback burst in from two yards out. Cedartown’s fourth touchdown of the day — the third on the ground — pushed it to a 31-point advantage.
The Bulldogs spent much of the fourth quarter running the offense and defense with reserve players who preserved the shutout and solidified the 31-0 region-opening win.
Tanner finished 5-of-12 passing with 90 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Each of his five completions were reeled in by Johnson, putting together a very productive afternoon for the senior.
Washington led the team with 146 rushing yards and one score on 12 carries. Gardner ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on ten carries while Davis finished with 72 yards and one score on six attempts. Xavier Hargrove also ran the ball nicely, adding 25 yards at Pickens.
Maldonado had another great day on special teams. The senior was 4-for-4 on extra points, drained a 41-yard field goal, and had five of his six kickoffs end up as touchbacks.
Cedartown exploded for 487 yards on the day. Conversely, the defense gave up just 75 yards against a Pickens offense that entered averaging nearly 31 points per game.
Head coach Jamie Abrams stated that, following the loss at Calhoun, the coaching staff put a lot of emphasis into staying out of their own way and executing.
Cedartown rushed for almost 400 yards against Pickens, a Region 7-4A opponent aiming for a playoff spot. While this is impressive in its own right, it is also important to note that the Bulldogs did this without junior running back Harlem Diamond who missed his second straight game due to injury.
“Xavier Hargrove and Khamarion Davis have taken his place on offense and Reece Tanner has had to step in on defense,” Abrams said. “Those guys are all team guys and will do what is asked of them. They have done a good job in his absence.”
CHS pitched their second shutout of the season and are now allowing just 8.2 points per game. “The defense has done a good job of preparing each week,” Abrams said. “We still aren’t where we want to be, but I do know if they don’t score, we win.”
Abrams stated that the coaching staff will be trying to clean up some things this week in practice, including working on avoiding penalties and finishing drives on offense.
As Cedartown looks ahead to their next challenge, they will face a tough foe in region opponent Northwest Whitfield. The Bruins, a team that began the season ranked in the Top 10 in Class 4A, are 3-2 on the season and just knocked off Central-Carrollton 33-27 in their first region contest. It is a rematch of last year’s game in Tunnel Hill, in which the Bulldogs picked up a 44-8 road victory.
“This week against Northwest Whitfield we are having Bulldog Legacy Night where we will add Ken Veal’s name to the signs on the hill,” Abrams said. “We will honor him as well as our rec players and cheerleaders. We want to tie in past, present, and future Bulldogs, and we would love for everyone to come out and support.”
Friday’s home region opener at Doc Ayers Field between the sixth-ranked Bulldogs and Northwest Whitfield will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.