Cedar Grove heading to state championship

Cedar Grove High School advanced to the GHSA 3A Football State Championship after dominating Appling County High School 27-6 Dec. 3 at Buck Godfrey Stadium.

The game began with what looked like a 35-yard touchdown from Cedar Grove quarterback Jamar Graham to wide receiver Janiran Bonner. However, the play was called back for holding and Cedar Grove was forced to punt instead.

Appling County responded with a punt on its first drive before making another defensive stop and kicking a field goal on its next possession to take a 3-0 lead over Cedar Grove.

Appling County almost took a 10-0 lead on its next possession when it drove into Cedar Grove territory. Once in the red zone, Appling County completed a pass over the middle of the field. The receiver turned upfield and a Cedar Grove defender poked the ball out of the receiver’s hands and the ball bounced out of the end zone to turn possession over to Cedar Grove.

The red zone turnover was all Cedar Grove needed to turn its momentum around.

A few plays after the fumble, Cedar Grove receiver Bernard Mack caught a pass in the flats and turned upfield for a 34-yard run after the catch. Mack’s catch set up a five-yard touchdown run for Rashod Dubinion.

Cedar Grove missed the extra point attempt on its first touchdown and took a 6-3 lead into halftime.

The Saints came into the second half leaning on the passing game. Graham found Bonner early in the second half for a 54-yard catch and followed it up with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Ferrell. Ferrell’s catch gave Cedar Grove a 13-3 lead with 10:38 left in the third.

Graham completed 14 of 16 passes for 267 yards and the three second half touchdowns against Appling County. Graham was thrown into the fire after starting quarterback Elliot Colson Jr. was unable to play due to an injury.

“I’m happy that [Graham] was patient,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach John Adams. “That tells a lot about his maturity and the stand-up guy he is. He’s always been talented, and we knew that. He has a real big arm and made some big plays today.”

Jamar Graham (15) completed 14 of 16 passes for 267 yards and the three second half touchdowns as Cedar Grove’s starting quarterback against Appling County. Photos by Jay Phillips

Appling County had the only other score of the third quarter with a field goal, before Cedar Grove came out slinging the ball again in the fourth quarter.

With 11:07 left in the game, Bonner caught another pass for 41 yards and a touchdown to put Cedar Grove up 20-6.

Adams said the biggest difference in the two halves was that Cedar Grove started completing big plays. According to Adams, the big plays gave Cedar Grove’s offense some momentum and the Saints’ defense ran with it.

“Putting up big numbers with our receivers was huge. We had some deep balls that went really well for us,” said Adams. “Then—like we talked about at halftime—we just had to build off momentum. It was domino effect. The offense played well and then the defense came in and dominated behind them.”

Cedar Grove’s defense squashed any hope for a comeback in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs with five minutes left to play.

Defensive linemen Christen Miller—who recovered a late fumble—and CJ Madden made several plays in the backfield with help from Everett Roussaw and coverage help from Gary Turner and Kaylin Lee. Turner ended Appling County’s final possession with an interception.

Christen Miller (52) picks up one of Cedar Grove’s nine tackles for loss.

Cameron Jackson led Cedar Grove’s defensive front with two sacks. The Saints had nine tackles for a loss. 

Cedar Grove’s final touchdown of the day was a 34-yard pass from Graham to Ferrell with 3:30 left.

With the win, the Cedar Grove will play in its fourth state championship game in six seasons. Cedar Grove will face Region 5-3A foe Carver-Atlanta High School—a 19-17 winner over defending state champion Pierce County High School—in the Class 3A title game Dec. 11 at noon at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium. 

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