Saints win semifinals

The Cedar Grove Saints beat the Greater Atlanta Christian School (GACS) Spartans 28-18 at Buck Godfrey Stadium Dec. 6 in the Georgia high school football AAA semifinals.

The Saints (12-2) secured a trip to the state championship with the win over GACS (12-2), where Cedar Grove will have a chance to win its third state championship in the last four seasons.

Despite the sustained success, this is Cedar Grove head coach Miguel Patrick’s first year.

“This is amazing,” Patrick said. “I couldn’t ask for a better start to my career as a head coach. This team deserves everything it gets.”

Two big catches late in the game helped give the Saints the edge.

Austin Smith high fives a teammate as he runs off the field.

Despite the game coming down to the wire, Cedar Grove played as if they were in control early on.

GACS received the opening kickoff and wound attempting a fourth down conversion on their first possession. Not only did Cedar Grove stop the receiver short of the line, but the Saints’ vaunted defense came up with their first turnover of the game when they stripped the ball away from the receiver and recovered it.

Sophomore running back Rashod Dubinion went for 60 yards and a touchdown a few plays later.

Dubinion had 78 yards and a touchdown at the end of the game.

GACS got back into the game thanks to a field goal, but Cedar Grove junior quarterback Austin Smith threw a touchdown to junior receiver Langston White that gave the Saints a 14-3 lead heading into halftime.

Smith finished the night with 162 total yards and two touchdowns.

However, GACS answered on its first possession of the second half by capping off a long drive with a touchdown from senior running back and Georgia Southern commit Tyler Bride.

Then came the first big catch for Cedar Grove. Smith took a shot down the field to senior wide receiver Coreyon Cone, and the defensive back deflected it with his back. Cone kept his eyes on the ball and kept both feet inside the line before falling backward out of bounds. 

Austin Smith checks with the sideline before putting Chavon Wright in motion.

Moments later, Cedar Grove found pay dirt when Smith took a quarterback keeper from five yards out into the endzone to give the Saints a 21-11 lead. 

“That was a huge catch by Coreyon Cone,” Patrick said.

GACS responded by returning a kickoff for a touchdown to trim the Saints lead to 21-18.

Just a few plays later, the Saints ran a direct snap to their running back after Smith was forced to leave the game for one play after losing his helmet. This caused the Saints to fumble their second handoff of the game in the wildcat formation, this time on their own goal line.

Cedar Grove’s defense stood strong and forced GACS into a third-and-goal. GACS needed a field goal to tie the game and a touchdown to take the lead, and that’s when the second big catch happened. Except this time, it happened on defense. 

Cedar Grove senior linebacker Isaiah Ratcliff, after making a big sack on third and long of the Spartans’ last offensive possession, turned a would-be-touchdown into an interception that he returned for 40 yards.

Head coach Miguel Patrick delivering a post-game speech.

“We were just playing football, and doing what we’ve been doing,” Ratcliff said. “On the last play I saw the receiver was too far out and knew there was only one route he could run, and I just played gap-ball.”

That interception set up senior running back Chavon Wright to score the Saints’ final touchdown and put the game away. 

“That’s the guy we started the game off with and finished the game off with,” Patrick said. “Chavon Wright showed you why he’s probably one of the best backs in the state.”

Wright finished the game with 106 yards and one touchdown, his third consecutive 100-yard game.

Cedar Grove will face Crisp County (11-3) Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Georgia State Stadium in the Class 3A state championship game.

Crisp County is coming off a 14-6 win over Jenkins on Dec. 6.

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