Adairsville football (6-5) didn’t get the result it hoped for in its first-round playoff matchup against Cedar Grove (11-0) Friday, but head coach Eric Bishop was nothing but positive despite his team’s 48-13 loss.
“Our kids set their mind to it and they came out and played a heck of a ballgame,” Bishop said. “I know the score will never reflect the effort and ability that they put into this game.”
Though the margin of victory was sizable, Adairsville did not play a bad game Friday night.
What played out is simply what’s supposed to happen when the no. 1-ranked team in Class 3A squares off against a No. 4 seed.
The Saints proved to have too much speed for Adairsville, as their linebackers often got into the backfield before Adairsville could get into a play.
And on offense, Cedar Grove showed off all of its weapons, with strong tailbacks and the no. 1-ranked receiver nationally in the Class of 2019, Jadon Haselwood.
Haselwood had three touchdowns Friday — one of which swung things for the Saints in a big way.
Already up 14-0, Haselwood took a punt return back for a touchdown. It looked as though he may have gotten some help in the form of a block in the back, but it wasn’t called.
“[The officials] are not going to see everything,” Bishop said. “It’s one I wish we could have back and get those seven points off the board.”
Cedar Grove entered halftime leading 21-3 after Josh Honea kicked a late 29-yard field goal for the Tigers.
The kick was set up by a drive that started after Cedar Grove fumbled in the end zone for a touchback.
After a Haselwood touchdown to open the second half, Adairsville responded, and it did so with some trickery.
On fourth down, Bishop dialed up a fake punt that worked, and Mason Boswell found Travon Branch for a 50-yard strike a few plays later to pull the Tigers within 18 at 28-10.
The Tigers tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, one that was up for grabs but was recovered by Cedar Grove.
It was evident that Bishop and the Tigers were willing to do whatever it took to keep the game competitive. A loss ended their season, and Bishop was acutely aware of that.
“We work on all that stuff all year long,” Bishop said. “We’re behind to the No. 1 team in the state — why not? If we can give our kids a chance to gain an extra possession and put points on the board and make it a close game in the fourth quarter, you have to do those things.”
Adairsville recovered a fumble deep in its own territory, but was unable to take advantage and gave Cedar Grove a short field to work with.
They drove within the 5, and Chevon Wright punched it in to extend the score to 34-10.
Adairsville attempted another fake punt on its next drive, but it was less successful, and Cedar Grove capitalized on great field position again, scoring on a well-designed pass and run for a score.
They added another score midway through the fourth.
Adairsville mustered one last good drive, and with time winding down, Honea kicked his second field goal of the night, this time from 26 yards.
Boswell had a better day passing the ball — 155 yards total — than he did running it.
That was in large part because of Cedar Grove’s ability defending the run.
The Saints were as advertised, and, if nothing else, Adairsville proved that it could sustain drives and stay on the field with one of the state’s most deep and talented teams.
“They played for the city and community of Adairsville,” Bishop said. “It’s not a bad night for Adairsville football.”