This was a different win for Fayette County. The Tigers didn’t need to hold their breath at the end. They didn’t need a rally. They didn’t let a lead slip away. The Tigers simply dominated in a 33-14 win over the Cedartown Bulldogs.
“It feels great. It’s been a tough year at the beginning. It’s a tough schedule,” said Fayette coach Mike Davis. “I’m so proud of the way these kids are coming together. It’s a process, but we’re coming together. It’s a great feeling.”
The outcome could have been a different one, but this is a new Tiger team. They’re not far away from being an undefeated team, but turnovers seemed to pop up at the worst time. One more could have changed the course on Friday. Not this time. Right before halftime, the Tigers had a chance to extend their lead to three touchdowns. Instead, Cedartown read a screen pass, intercepted it, and ran it back deep into Fayette territory. They punched it in for their first score with just one second left in the half. The change, though, was Fayette didn’t get down. They came out renewed in the second half and put the Bulldogs away.
“That could have been a crushing blow, but the kids fought well,” Davis said. “Adversity happens so we can grow. When adversity happens, we grow as people. We grow as a team.”
Fayette never trailed Cedartown. The defense was stingy again. The offense pushed around the opposition.
The line of Conranta Cody, Christian Vickery, Ethan Orphe, Thez Wyatt, and Ashlon Catron paved the way for a big night on the ground. Montrell Kelley absolutely punished the Bulldogs with 72 yards, two touchdowns, and countless defenders flat run over. Malek Bowe sliced them up for 88 yards and three scores. Robert Easterwood added 74 yards on the ground.
Freshman Makenzie Stills stepped in at quarterback for Daveion Nash and made a splash of his own, showing poise beyond his years. He’s given the Tigers one more weapon in their arsenal.
“You’re talking about a stud. He stepped up. He’s calm. He’s under control,” praised Davis. “Taking nothing away from Daveion. He’s an exciting player too. We have two quarterbacks now that I trust. That’s a blessing.”
Early setbacks didn’t delay the Tigers for long. Fayette’s first drive pushed deep into Bulldog territory with an Easterwood reverse and a fourth down conversion on a 24 yard fingertip catch and run by Kelley. Penalties would push them back out of the red zone, including negating a 30 yard bomb to Easterwood to the one yard line. Cedartown stopped a fourth and 35 attempt with a jump ball interception on the six yard line.
The Tiger defense forced a three and out, then Easterwood returned the punt for an apparent touchdown. Again, a penalty eliminated a big play. Fayette stayed focused and got back their score. Kawaan Baker moved the chains with a one-handed catch for 20 yards. Malek Bowe took a sweep around the right end for a 10 yard touchdown. Zach Gongola’s extra point staked Fayette to a 7-0 lead.
Fayette grabbed the ball right back when Tyler Brown absolutely flattened a Cedartown player on Gongola’s pooch kick, knocking the ball loose. Baker pounced on it to set up the Tigers inside the 50. They wouldn’t score on the series, but the momentum was firmly theirs.
After holding on fourth down, Fayette’s next series chewed up 63 yards on the road to paydirt. Montrell Kelley’s three yard touchdown staked Fayette to a 14-0 lead that held until Cedartown’s late score.
Fayette bounced right back after halftime. Sean Harper’s fumble recovery quickly killed any hopes the Bulldogs had of building momentum. The Tigers didn’t waste the strong field position, quickly lighting up the scoreboard. Kelley struck again, rumbling through and over the defense for a 22 yard score and a 20-7 lead.
Cedartown had one more score left, converting two fourth downs en route to a one yard touchdown and a narrowed 20-14 margin.
Fayette shook it off with an 85 yard drive, keyed by a 21 yard Bowe run and a little gutsy playcalling. Facing a fourth and short in their own end of the field, the Tigers went for the fake punt. Easterwood picked up the first down and plenty extra, racing through the defense for 23 yards. Bowe capped off the series with a one yard plunge and a 26-14 lead.
The defense stepped up and shut down the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt, thanks to some senior playmaking. Cedartown’s next drive ended when a hit sent the ball popping up in the air. Sean Ancrum fell on top of it for the turnover. The last gasp for Cedartown ended in the same hands when Ancrum intercepted a pass deep in Tiger territory.
Fayette’s final score was another Bowe touchdown to ice the victory.
The Tigers get this week off before they host Carrollton on October 10.