The year 2020 was a complicated one for varsity football coaches to navigate through, filled with the challenges of practicing and competing in the day-to-day grind while also ensuring student-athletes’ health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Jamie Abrams, who joined Cedartown last January after serving as McEachern High School’s defensive coordinator, he was tasked with heightening a football program that had the pieces in place for success. The result? The Bulldogs’ first region championship since 2001 and first quarterfinal appearance since 2002.
Guiding the team to an 8-3 season in his first year at the helm, Abrams is the 2020 Rome News-Tribune All-Area Head Football Coach of the Year.
Abrams and the Bulldogs had a tough start to 2020, dropping their first two games of the season to Rockmart and Calhoun. However, the ship was righted and Cedartown’s record improved to 3-2 as Region 7-AAAA competition dawned.
“The slow start was coupled by a lot of things. We didn’t get a big offseason this year with COVID,” Abrams said. “Getting things implemented was kind of on the fly. We were young in some spots. The biggest thing I would say is our seniors. They came around ... I can’t say enough about those guys, the Class of 2021.”
Cedartown rolled through region competition, capping it off with a 34-7 win over Central-Carrollton to take the region for the first time in 19 years.
“At one time, it was kind of commonplace in Cedartown to win region championships and be a part of region championships,” Abrams said. “The thing about Cedartown is a lot of our guys have dads or uncles ... who have played in the program. For those guys being able to have a region championship as well, I think that was big for the kids who are currently on our roster.”
In all, the Bulldogs rattled off eight victories in a row before falling to Bainbridge 21-10 on Dec. 11.
“There were a lot of curveballs thrown in 2020, so being able to ... work together toward something everybody wants in a different way than anybody has ever done it,” Abrams said. “The trick is to sustain success and grow from it and get better.”
Abrams credits the coaching staff and seniors for their work during the 2020 season that got Cedartown into the quarterfinals.
As Abrams’ one-year anniversary with Cedartown nears, he said he is looking forward to building upon the Dawgs’ region championship and trip to the Class AAAA quarterfinals.
“I think the community’s excited about football right now,” Abrams said. “That was a good start. I think anytime you get in that quarterfinal round, you’ve got to be in the conversation in your classification. I would like to think we’ve put ourselves in that conversation. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and makes some bigger runs and better pushes in the future.”