Hiram came into the game much improved over last year’s winless squad. The Hornets have already eclipsed their win total of zero last year by two. The Hornets were able to defeat East Paulding two weeks ago, 47-0, and North Atlanta last week 34-0. In the first game of the year, the Hornets almost had another win, putting a big scare into the Central (Carrollton) Lions, before succumbing to a 20-19 final score.
“They are not even close to being the same football team as last year,” said Cedartown Head Coach Everett Kelley. “They have really improved. Their skill people are completely different and their quarterback has vastly improved from last year. Offensively they are a good football team.”
Cedartown’s faithful fans packed the stadium in anticipation of the first home game since August 31 – an 18-7 victory over Pebblebrook – and the homecoming celebration.
Often on Homecoming, home teams welcome a hapless team to their homefield for an easy victory. The Bulldogs would not get such an opponent in these much-improved Hornets.
To start the game, the Bulldogs won the toss and elected to receive the ball. Hornet’s kicker Wesley Burton kicked the opening kick out of bounds and the Bulldogs received the ball on their 35.
Drew Robinson picked right up where he left off last week against Etowah, and immediately got a first down for the Dawgs on back-to-back carries. Cedartown was shutdown the rest of the drive as a Jacob Kelly pass intended for Verdis Boone fell incomplete.
The Bulldogs then brought in their secret weapon in the game, kicker Richard Stanley. Stanley was able to boom a 51-yard punt that was almost recovered at the one-yard line, before eventually bouncing into the endzone.
For the game, Stanley converted both extra point attempts, was 1-2 on field goal attempts, and had three punts for a total of 125 yards (41.6 avg.) Stanley was able to pin the Hornets on their own one-yard line with one punt, and on their own six-yard line with another.
Defensively, the Bulldogs may have had a little to prove after allowing 21 points to the Etowah Eagles last week. The unit started the game fired up and forced the Hornets’ explosive offense to punt on their first possession after three plays.
The Bulldogs won the early battle for field position, taking over deep in Hiram territory after a bad punt by the Hiram punter. The ball appeared to slip off of the right side of Burton’s foot as he kicked and the ball only sailed 10 yards through the air before going out of bounds at the Hiram 25-yard line with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter.
Quarterback Sam Hunt took the very first snap and took it in 25-yards for the first touchdown of the game. The kicking team recovered from early season kicking problems, as Stanley drilled the kick through the uprights for the extra point.
The Dawgs were able to do some more damage to the Hornets’ victory hopes on the very next offensive snap.
Hiram running back Terry Lindley gained seven yards on a run before fumbling. Demarcus James recovered the ball on the Cedartown 46-yard line with 7:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Cedartown put together a nine play, 54-yard drive that ended in a nine-yard touchdown run by Kendric Sewell.
That drive was maintained by a 22 yard run on a reverse by speedy receiver Shiron Colvin in a second and nine situation.
Both team would score for the remainder of the first half as both defenses toughened up and both offenses failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
Cedartown missed a golden opportunity to score at the end of the first half. Hiram lined up without a man covering Colvin on the line of scrimmage. Defensive back Antonio Sims was the closest defender to Colvin and he was easily 10 yards to Colvin’s right and didn’t appear to see Colvin on the wing.
Colvin ran down the left side of the field waving his arms, frantically trying to get Hunt’s attention. Hunt did not see Colvin unguarded on the left side of the field and the Bulldogs missed an easy score.
Hunt was able to complete three passes on the drive and the Bulldogs found themselves on the Hiram 29-yard line with only 00.3 seconds left on the clock. Time expired as the officials placed the ball on the line of scrimmage, and the Bulldogs entered the lockroom with a precarious 14-0 lead.
In the first half, the Bulldogs limited the Hornets to negative12 yards rushing on nine carries and Hiram quarterback Brett Bradberry to 36 yards on 5-12 passing. Cedartown was able to rack up 188 yards on the ground on 26 carries and 83 yards on 7-15 passing in the first half.
Hiram received the ball to open the second and secured excellent field position off a Trey Hines 29-yard kickoff return to the Hiram 42-yard line.
The Bulldogs stepped up on defense and forced a three-and-out situation for the Hornets.
Cedartown received the ball on their own 25-yard line and put together 10 consecutive rushing plays that gained 56 yards. The Dawgs did not get any points on the drive, but they were able to consume five minutes and 30 seconds off of the clock. With a 14-0 deficit late in the third quarter, time was running against the Hornets.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 17-0, with a six-play, 48-yard drive that was capped with a 21-yard field goal by Stanley. He had missed a 28-yard field goal attempt with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter.
Hiram responded with a 13-play, 52-drive that was sustained with a third down, roughing the passer penalty against the Bulldogs. Hiram running back Hines capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown scamper.
With only 5:30 seconds left in the game, the Bulldogs ran the clock out with a strong, grinding, time-consuming running attack from Kendric Sewell and Drew Robinson. The drive stalled at the Hiram 41-yard line, but Cedartown was in control, after Stanley was able to pin the Hornets on their own six-yard line with a 35-yard punt.
Hiram had one last chance to put some points on the board, but Bradberry’s receivers Antoine Tucker and Darrell Hardy failed him, dropping three consecutive passes for incompletions. Cedartown received the ball back with 1:47 seconds left in the game and was able to run out the clock.
Cedartown finished the game with 279 yards rushing on 38 carries. Drew Robinson led the team with 145 yards on 17 carries. Sewell carried the ball 13 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Through the air, the Bulldogs quarterback duo of Sam Hunt and Jacob Kelley completed 8-of-17 passes for 119 yards. Kelley was 3-for-5 with 43 yards, while Hunt was 6-12 with 76 yards.
Colvin and Sewell tied for the team lead in receptions with 3-for-57 yards and 3-for-46 yards respectively
As a team, the Bulldogs limited a dangerous Hiram offense to 18 yards on the ground on 18 carries and a 10-28, 73 yard passing day.
Matt Robinson was a monster on defense with nine tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
Josh Woolfork continued his strong play from the Etowah game, with eight tackles and combining on a sack with Dennis Buffington and Matt Robinson.
The secondary as a unit had a solid night against the pass happy Hornets. Demarcus James had six tackles, and a fumble recovery. Verdis Boone only had two tackles, but was able to swat several passes out of the reach of Hiram’s receivers. Shiron Colvin made two tackles and came close to intercepting two passes on the night.
“Overall I thought we played well,” said Coach Kelley. “We did not take advantage of some situations early. We had a chance to put this team away early. We’ve got to learn to put people away.”
Cedartown has an open date this Friday, before taking on the Pepperell Dragons on October 12, at 8 p.m. at Doc Ayers Field.