The Cedar Grove Saints scored four unanswered touchdowns to break a 14-14 second quarter tie on the way to a 49-28 Class 3A championship game win over the Savannah Christian Raiders at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m so proud of these kids after battling against some of the top teams in Class 7A and then getting together to win eight consecutive games to be here with this trophy,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach John Adams. “Winning a state championship is hard and a lot of people don’t know what all it takes to get here.”
Savannah Christian tied the game at 14-14 on a one-yard touchdown run by Zo Smalls with 11:18 remaining in the first before the Saints exploded for four touchdowns over the next quarter and half to go up 42-14.
Facing a third and three at the Raiders (12-3) 31, quarterback EJ Colson threw over the middle to Andrew Leslie who cut down the right sideline and broke a tackle inside the five before diving for the end zone. Alex Brock hit his third PAT of the game to make it 21-14 in favor of the Saints with 10:04 left in the first half.
Cedar Grove would come up with two of its biggest defensive plays in the final 10 minutes of the half. The first came when D’Marcus Clements out battled a Savannah receiver for an interception in the end zone to end a scoring threat by the Raiders with 7:01 to play.
The second came with just over a minute remaining in the half when Tony Forney tracked down a wobbling pass at his own 38 and ran down the left sideline before stepping out of bounds at the Savannah 18.
Colson dropped back on the first play and threw to the end zone where Devin Carter hauled in the pass over his head for the touchdown with 59 seconds to play in the half. Brock was good again on the PAT to make it a 28-14 game at the half.
Cedar Grove opened the second half with the football and on the third play Bo Walker broke away around right tackle and outraced the Savannah defenders 50 yards into the end zone with 11:10 left in the third quarter. Brock knocked through his fifth PAT of the game to make it 35-14.
The Saints defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with 9:40 left in the third quarter. A holding call and a personal foul on the Saints put Cedar Grove at its own 15 facing a third and 21. Leslie again came up big as Colson tossed a pass down the middle of the field to the streaking Leslie for a pickup of 46 yards.
Colson then connected with on a third and 7 for a 29-yard pass play with Carter down to the Savannah seven. Anthony Booker went up the middle bulling his way into the end zone with 7:01 remaining in the quarter. Brock’s sixth PAT made it 42-14.
Savannah scored on the next possession as Jaden Miles spun out of a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 24 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 42-21.
With just over a minute remaining in the quarter, Colson threw right on a receiver screen to freshman Jordan Christie who got sprung with some nice blocks by his receiver teammates and was off the races for a 45-yard touchdown. Brock’s PAT made it 49-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Savannah picked up one more score with 9:10 to play as Smalls ran it in from a yard out for the final margin of 49-28.
The Raiders opened the game by taking the kickoff for the first touchdown of the game as Smalls scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 9:53 on the clock. Ethan Byrd made it 7-0 with the PAT.
Cedar Grove answered on the first play following the kickoff as Colson tossed the ball to Malachi Miller who got around the left corner to take it 64-yards to the house. Brock’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 9:31 left in the first quarter.
Bo Walker’s 10-yard run with 2:39 left in the opening period gave the Saints their first lead of the game. Brock tacked on the PAT for a 14-7 advantage.
The Saints outgained Savannah 499 to 294 led by EJ Colson who passed for 259 yards and four touchdowns as he hit on 11 of 16 passes in the game. He threw passes to four different receivers in Devin Carter (4-59), Malachi Miller (3-80), Andrew Leslie (2-77) and Jordan Christie (1-45). Junior running back Bo Walker ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Saints were led by Keith Bass with 12 total tackles and Chase Kerns with 11 including 2 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss.
Cedar Grove became just the fourth team in GHSA championship history to finish the regular season at .500 or worse (5-5) and win a state title as they reeled off eight consecutive victories after falling to 2-5 heading into Region 5-3A play. They then knocked off Douglass, Sandy Creek, and Carver of Atlanta to finish the regular season at 5-5 and as the 5-3A champs.
The Saints collected their fifth state title in eight years becoming just the seventh team in GHSA history to complete the feat. Cedar Grove won its first title in 2016, went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 and won again in 2021. This title gives Head Coach John Adams his third title in his first three seasons leading the Saints.
Adams also got a major surprise after the win as his wife presented him with a boys’ onesie with Adams on the back to let him know their due next spring was going to be a boy.
“I have a lot of emotions going on right now and am just really proud of all that happened here today,” said Adams.