ATLANTA – State championship games usually mean teams that are evenly matched facing off and the Cedar Grove Saints had a fight on their hands against Peach County Tuesday.
The Saints struggled mightily throughout the first half but a solid second half showing was soon topped by a Jadon Hasselwood 22-yard reception touchdown in the final 10 seconds.
Cedar Grove was limited to no passing yards in the first quarter as Austin Smith struggled.
Peach County outgained the Saints with its 16 play 67-yard quarter. Cedar Grove finally progressed to more than a three-and-out in the final minute after Chavon Wright’s 13-yard rush but that would be it.
“Peach was a really good team and some of it was us but they were playing really well,” Saints head coach Jermaine Smith said of the defense. “It seemed like they were trying to run away from certain guys so we moved some guys around. They saw some stuff in the passing game with some RPO stuff but we made those adjustments.”
By the end of the first half, Peach County held a 3-0 lead over Cedar Grove but the Saints were finally driving down the field.
After the Wright rush – the Saints drove down the field with an impressive 13-play drive. Despite getting to the Peach 10-yard line, Cedar Grove came up empty.
A sack of Smith pushed the Saints back to the 18-yard line while the call to go for a score on fourth down also wound up errant.
“It was planned,” Smith said. “We had a rollout and get it out of his hands but when they got a sack – the kicker was looking kinda funny. So I knew we had to go for it. If we wouldn’t have lost 12 yards, I would have kicked it.”
The momentum shift was evident, as Peach County used the stop to drive downfield on a 13 play, 51-yard drive resulted in a Rene Galan 48-yard field goal.
Of course, it was a tale of two halves for the Saints. In the third quarter, Peach County opened the quarter with a costly fumble caused by Haselwood. Saints player Justin Harris recovered the ball to help change the momentum of the game.
Although the Saints first drive of the third quarter was a five play, -3-yard drive, things changed as the defense locked Peach down to a three-and-out.
Once the Saints got the ball back offensively, it took two plays for the Saints to find paydirt.
Boney started the drive with a monster pass to Montre Montfort for 41 yards, from there, Boney did the work with a 12-yard rush.
Cedar Grove was up 7-3 after just 22 seconds in the third quarter.
Things got tricky for the Saints though in the third quarter. Peach County found their own stride after the touchdown and marched down the field.
The Trojans took a 14-play drive down the field for the score as Cedar Grove couldn’t slow their opponents’ offense.
Down 10-7 and in a dire situation during the fourth quarter. Penalties plagued the Saints and Peach capitalized with a 30-yard field goal for the 13-7 lead.
“It just motivated us more to push, we had to keep playing. We made many adjustments and we had an 11th grader playing mike linebacker and he had never played that position before. He played defensive end and the other defensive end we had to put into the fire. He didn’t make all the plays I wanted him to make but he kept fighting – that’s all I can ask for.”
The penultimate drive for the Saints started with just 3:48 remaining on the clock. Haselwood returned the kickoff 58 yards to the Peach 37.
From there Boney completed a pass to Chavon Wright. After a timeout, Boney and Wright combined for four yards rushing but it was the Robert Jones III 19-yard rush that set the Saints up with good field position.
Three false start penalties forced the Saints from the Peach’s 12-yard line to just outside the red zone on the 22.
A deep pass from Boney to Haselwood was almost a prayer on fourth and forever with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Haselwood came up with the reception and score with four seconds remaining in the game. Luis Dominguez booted the ball through the upright to avoid overtime and seal the 14-13 victory.
Check out this video of Montre Montfort talking after the game.