FOOTBALL: Dawgs advance to Sweet 16

By: Sam Branch

What ended as a magical regular season for the Cedartown Bulldogs carried over into the postseason on Friday
night in front of a packed-out Cedartown Memorial Stadium. For ten regular season games, the Bulldogs have left everything they had on the field. Blood, sweat, tears, hard hits and a lot of points. Cedartown finished the 2022 regular season a perfect 10 and 0, something that hasn’t been done in Bulldog history in decades. You would have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a Bulldog squad that finished the regular season with a perfect record. Those Bulldogs finished with a 9-0 record and would make their way to a state championship game on the very field these 10-0 Bulldogs held their dominance. In the bitter cold in front of a standing room only crowd, the Bulldogs would fall to the LaGrange Grangers in the final moments of one of the most historic games in Cedartown history. These Bulldogs however intend to write a different history.

On Friday night, the perfect Bulldogs defeated the Cedar Shoals Jaguars by a final score of 49-0. The Jaguars were the number 4 team out of region 8, finishing their regular season with a 5-5 record. The Bulldog defense has held all year, forcing their fourth shutout of the season. In ten games, the Cedartown defense has only allowed 71 points, many of which have come against the second and third string squads in the second half of the games. For comparison, the other five teams in Region 7AAAA have allowed an average of 293 points on the season. The Cedartown defense has been led by senior linebacker, Eli Barrow, averaging nearly 12 tackles per game and 10 sacks for the season. Barrow would finish the night with 8 solo tackles, 2 assist and 1 tackle of a loss. Barrow has had a lot of help from the solid defensive line, to other secondary help including fellow linebacker Sam Smith and defensive backs Demarcus Gardner and Tae Harris. Gardner would pick up another interception, along with Harlem Diamond against the Jaguar offense. The defensive unit under the direction of Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Ruark has been an absolute powerhouse all year and continued that dominance on Friday night.

If you ask senior quarterback Reece Tanner, the other side of the ball hasn’t been that bad either. The Bulldog offense entered Friday night’s game averaging just over 45 points per game, again with the second and third string playing the majority of the second half of most of Cedartown’s ten regular season games. On Friday night, the Bulldog starters would put up 42 points in the first half against the Jaguars defense. Tanner would pass for 88 yards on 4 completions in 7 attempts, 2 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown on a fake punt in Friday night’s win. The two touchdown passes would find senior running back Harlem Diamond and sophomore Demarcus Gardner who has really made an impact on both sides of the ball in the last few games. Senior Patrick Gardner and another young Dawg in Juelz Davis would account for two of the three rushing touchdowns on the night. Overall, the Bulldogs would finish the night with 327 total yards of offense and 49 points.  

So, what’s next for the dominating Cedartown Bulldogs? A region championship promised the Cedartown faithful at least two guaranteed opportunities to see their Bulldogs at home in the post season. With a win over Pace Academy on Friday night, the Stephenson Jaguars will come calling from Stone Mountain to Doc Ayers Field on Friday night. Stephenson finished the regular season 7-3 and are the 3rd team in region 6 AAAA. The Jaguars are riding a 2-game win streak, defeating Pace Academy in the opening round of the playoffs 40-38. Stephenson averages only 27 points per game and has allowed just over 20 points per game on average. They like to run the ball over passing, averaging just over 120 yards on the ground per game compared to right at 42 yards through the air per game. We won’t look too far ahead, but with a win Friday night the Bulldogs are looking at either a third home game against Burke County or a road game against a well-known foe in the Bainbridge Barcats. Either way, the Bulldogs will be primed to finish something they started three years ago with their first region championship in years. They are primed to finish something that was started over a decade ago with the last three-year, region championship run that ended with a loss in the state championship game. They are primed to change the course of history for Cedartown footballand write another chapter, this one with their own ending.