Cedar Grove 36, Southwest DeKalb 0

A powerful and elusive Labron Morris led the charge for Cedar Grove, which scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives and coasted home for a 36-0 victory against Southwest DeKalb on Friday night in an opener for both teams.

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(Branden Camp / Special to AJC)

(Branden Camp / Special to AJC)

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(Branden Camp / Special to AJC)

The Panthers had little answer for Morris from the outset, as the 5-foot-8 senior posted 151 of his game-high 170 yards in the first half, getting into the end zone twice to help give the Saints the only points they’d need.

It started quickly for Morris, as he burst through the line for 49 yards on his second carry of the game, setting up a Cedar Grove touchdown. He also had runs of 21, 35 and 16 yards en route to his first-half romp.

The least surprised person in the place was Cedar Grove coach Jermaine Smith, who said this is exactly what he expects from his feature back.

“He always goes like that; it’s going to be very difficult to stop him,” Smith said. “Labron Morris is probably one of the most underrated backs in the nation. He’s one of the most underrated players I know. I don’t know what the scouts are looking at.”

Cedar Grove was always in control, but the Panthers did have their moments when it looked like they might be able to crawl back into the game.

They started their third possession on their 20-yard line, down 12-0, and quickly marched into Cedar Grove territory with a 28-yard Jordan Eastling run to the Saints 35.

A key fourth-down conversion got them to the 23, and a Cedar Grove personal foul took them to the 13 with a first down. But quarterback Jelani Woods was stripped of the ball on the next play, and the Saints recovered to end the threat.

Two possessions later, this time down 18-0, the Panthers started on the Cedar Grove 30 after a long kickoff return by Eastling. A first down on the 20 turned into fourth and 8 at the 18, and a 7-yard completion to Matthew Wray wasn’t enough to get a shot at the end zone with less than a minute left in the first half.

That was the final sign of life for the Panthers, though, as Cedar Grove poured it on further in the third quarter, scoring one touchdown on a surprise fourth-down pass that went for a 54-yard touchdown, then an end-zone recovery of a bad punt snap by the Panthers to go up 30-0.

After one more scare from the Southwest DeKalb offense, the Cedar Grove defense would close it out while keeping the Panthers off the board.

It may not have been the highest priority, but seeing that zero on the board at the end made for a nice opening night.

“The defensive coordinator, Coach (Miguel) Patrick really, really wanted the shutout,” Smith said. “I was getting guys out, and he was like, ‘Come on, Coach.’ I said, ‘The shutout’s not as important as keeping our guys healthy.’”