L-R: ELI BARROW (LB/FB) '23 HARLEM DIAMOND (DB/RB) '23 PATRICK GARDNER (DL/FB) '23 - Photos Andy Calvert
A heartbreaking loss in the Class 4A State Semifinals last year provided plenty of fuel and incentive for hard work for Cedartown during the off-season, and the Bulldogs and third-year head coach Jamie Abrams are looking to pick up right where they left off when the 2022 season kicks off.
“Our off-season went well although it seemed like it was a lot shorter because we played right up until Christmas,” Abrams said.
The Bulldogs fell to Carver-Columbus 22-21 in the Class 4A State Semifinals. Carver scored a late touchdown and then chose to go for two instead of the tie. The sting of loss still lingers.
“Almost winning still hurts a bit,” Abrams said. “But I think our kids believe we could have won that game, and we’ve had a really good summer workout program. We’ve had great attendance, and the kids are truly focusing on getting better.”
When asked how the Bulldogs could possibly make a repeat of last year’s deep playoff run, Abrams mentions that it takes some luck with injuries, but that it all boils down to preparedness. Look no further than the Bulldogs’ non-region schedule to see one big way Cedartown is prepping for a possible playoff run.
The Bulldogs face Rockmart, Callaway, Sequoyah, Calhoun, and Dalton before they open region play at home on Sept. 30 against Central Carrollton.
“We’ve got a pretty brutal schedule, but that means we’re going to be battle-tested,” Abrams says. “I believe that when you play established teams like that and go into some really tough environments it’s going to help us in the long run through region play and the state playoffs.”
While Cedartown did lose some key players from last year’s squad, the Bulldogs still return a plethora of talent that’s been working and sweating and thinking about the one-point loss that kept them out of the state finals.
Cedartown returns Reece Tanner, who has started for three years at quarterback, as well as Harlem Diamond the leading rusher the last two years, and Patrick Gardner, a three-year starter at fullback.
Xavier Hargrove is a three-year starter returning who plays linebacker and halfback, and Eli Barrow, who has led the Bulldogs in tackles the past two seasons, also returns.
Abrams also mentioned seniors like Dustin Green, Peyton Nikolopoulus, Grant Dempsey, Zak Tillery, and Cornell Medellin.
“Being able to have that experience coming back is great. We also have a lot of kids stepping into roles that have some experience, but not quite as much in a starting role,” Abrams says. “We’re not sure how they will respond, but it’s always great to have those senior guys out there to help them. And some of these seniors may not have been full-time starters, but they have been valuable assets for us.”
The Bulldogs have won back-to-back region titles and most pundits will have them favored to repeat as Region 7-4A champions again this season. And of course, now the Bulldogs get to see what they can do for an encore after one of the best seasons in the last few decades of the program.
If the rugged off-season workouts with great attendance as well as brutal non-region schedule pay dividends, the Bulldogs could indeed grab another region crown and make another deep run into the playoffs.