Cedar Grove defensive lineman Chase Kerns (51) and linebacker Keith Bass (24) combine on a sack of Calvary Day quarterback Jake Merklinger (4). (Photo by Mark Brock)

Cedar Grove defensive lineman Chase Kerns (51) and linebacker Keith Bass (24) combine on a sack of Calvary Day quarterback Jake Merklinger (4). (Photo by Mark Brock)

The No. 2 ranked Cedar Grove Saints outlasted the No. 1 ranked Calvary Day Cavaliers 49-42 in a game that had 70 points scored in the second half of the Class 3A semifinal game at “Buck” Godfrey Stadium on Friday night.

It is the third consecutive trip to the finals for the Saints who lost a controversial decision to Sandy Creek in last year’s final.

A game that first looked to be a defensive struggle as it was scoreless for the first 18:31 of the game would feature 11 consecutive scoring drives and a 99-yard kickoff return as both teams moved up and down the field in the final 29:29 of the game.

It was not until Cedar Grove’s Wesley Brown recovered an onside kick attempt by Calvary Day (13-1) with 1:35 remaining that the Saints could finally take a breath.

EJ Colson’s one-yard plunge on third and one following the onside kick gave the Saints a first down and enabled Cedar Grove to run out the final 40 seconds to seal the win.

Colson who had a pair of touchdown runs and threw for another all but put the game away with 2:15 to play as he kept the ball and ran for a 42-yard touchdown on third and two. Alex Brock tacked on the PAT to make it 49-35. The drive was set up as the Saints recovered an onside kick with 4:10 to play at the Calvary 46 after a 22-yard run by Jake Merklinger after he was flushed from the pocket.

Cedar Grove running back Bo Walker (0) heads to the end zone for one of his three touchdowns on the night. (Photo by Mark Brock)

Cedar Grove running back Bo Walker (0) heads to the end zone for one of his three touchdowns on the night. (Photo by Mark Brock)

Calvary Day came right back up the field aided by a roughing the passer call on the Saints to pull within in 49-42 as Merklinger connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass with Caden Arnold. Grady Shiver added the PAT to make it a one score game. This led to a second onside kick attempt by the Cavaliers which Brown recovered.

The game started out with consecutive punts, a turnover on downs forced by the Saints, an interception by Calvary and another punt early in the second quarter.

Cedar Grove took over after the punt and were facing a third and 16 on their own eight-yard line when Colson stepped up in the pocket and took off up field for an 18-yard gain and a first down to keep the drive live. Colson finished the drive with a 40-yard scamper on a keeper up the middle for the touchdown with 5:29 left in the half. Brock added the PAT to make it 7-0.

The Cavaliers answered with a scoring drive of their own as Merklinger connected with tight end Michael Smith on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:04 remaining in the half. Shriver’s PAT tied the game 7-7.

Cedar Grove marched back down the field to regain the lead with Bo Walker scoring on a one-yard run. The score was set up by a 25-yard pass play from Colson to Devin Carter down to the Calvary one. Brock made it a 14-7 lead at the half with his PAT.

The Saints got the ball to start the second half and would march 88 yards in nine plays to take a two-touchdown lead. Facing a third and 15 at their own 28, Colson dropped back and threw over the middle to Andrew Leslie who despite being hit by two defenders held on to the ball for 19-yard gain and the first down. Three plays later Walker got outside and raced 33 yards into the end zone with 7:47 left in the third period. Brock hit his third PAT of the night to make it 21-7.

Calvary closed the gap to 21-14 as Merklinger hit Arnold for 35-yard scoring play. Shriver cut the lead to 21-14 with his PAT.

Runs of 29 yards by Anthony Booker and 27 yards by Bo Walker had the Saints back knocking at the door at the Cavaliers six-yard line. Walker would glide around the left end for the final six yards to push the lead out to 28-14 with 4:08 left in the third. Brock made it 4-4 on PATS and the lead was 28-14.

The Saints put the Cavaliers in trouble as they forced a fourth and goal at the six only to have Merklinger throw a jump ball towards Smith who hauled in the pass for the touchdown. Shriver cut the lead to 28-21 with 31 seconds left in the quarter.

The two teams traded touchdowns as Colson threw a nice pass right down the middle of the field to Devin Carter for a 56-yrd touchdown and Calvary Day answering with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Merklinger to Arnold.

Calvary Day kicked deep and after chasing the ball down at the one Cedar Grove’s Malachi Miller looked up field and took off. He avoided a pair of tacklers and raced into the end zone for the score with 8:22 to play. Brock’s PAT made it 42-28.

The Cavaliers used a 22-yard touchdown run by Merklinger to pull within 42-35 with 4:15 to play.

Bo Walker finished the game rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Colson added another 122 yards on the ground with two touchdowns on 18 more carries. Colson also threw for 141 yards and a touchdown. Devin Carter had 4 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Merklinger finished the night hitting on 20 of 29 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers who found the going tough on the ground as Cedar Grove limited them to just 43 yards rushing.

Friday, Dec. 1
Cedar Grove (9-5) 49, Calvary Day (13-1) 42

Wednesday, Dec. 13
Savannah Christian (12-2)) vs. Cedar Grove (9-5), 1:00 pm