Cedartown came within one yard of winning the Class 4A State Title in 2022, but a late goal-line stand by Benedictine kept the Bulldogs from hoisting the championship trophy.
For some programs that would be a huge blow, but the Bulldogs treated it as a learning experience and got back to work as soon as possible.
“After that game was over, we got to go back to work. It’s the nature of the beast. There was no time to sit and feel sorry for ourselves, and we went full steam ahead in January,” Cedartown coach Jamie Abrams says. “We didn’t have a lot of time off, so we didn’t have a lot of time to sit and think about it.”
Along with getting back to work, the coaches began evaluating to see how they could fill some of the holes left by graduation.
“For us, we were really just trying to find the guys that can take the place of the guys that we lost. There are always guys who have been waiting in the wings and waiting for these opportunities,” Abrams says.
While the Bulldogs did lose several players from last year’s state finals team, they also brought back some key contributors as well.
Several all-region players return for the Bulldogs this season including Edgar Martinez, who plays tight end and defensive line, Jakoby Diamond, who plays center and defensive line, Demarcus Gardner, who plays cornerback and wide receiver, Taidji Neal, who plays running back, and a defensive back, Tae Harris and Sam Smith.
The Bulldogs did lose a lot of offensive production from last year’s squad to graduation, but Cedartown also had a lot of players get time on the field.
Having Martinez and Diamond back helps on the offensive and defensive fronts.
Gardner scored two recovering touchdowns last year and had 149 total receiving yards, while Harris contributed five total touchdowns either catching or running the ball for the Bulldogs.
“The experience we have coming back is invaluable to the team,” Abrams says.
That experience will help when the Bulldogs begin playing their schedule.
The Bulldogs won’t have an easy go of it as several solid teams populate their non-region roster. The season opens with county rival Rockmart, followed by games against Sequoyah, Calhoun, and Dalton, giving Cedartown plenty of opportunities to play some top-notch opponents before opening the region schedule on Sept. 29 against Central Carroll.
“Every one of our non-region opponents went to the playoffs in their classification last season. It means that we are going to be battle-tested,” Abrams says. “We also know because of what we’ve done the past couple of years, that we are going to be getting every team’s best game.”
When asked what it will take for Cedartown to win region again and possibly make another deep run in the state playoffs, Abrams’ comments are short and sweet.
“Basically we’re just going to have to do what we need to do to win,” he says. “I’d like to think that our guys have come in here from the winter to the spring to the summer with a great mindset to get better and to prepare for what they’re going to have to do to win.”