The Benedictine defense has forged a well-earned reputation all season. In the waning moments of the Class 4A championship game against Cedartown on Friday at Center Parc Stadium, the Cadets showed why.

With the rain pouring harder than it had all day, Benedictine stopped Cedartown on four plays inside the 1 to preserve a 14-13 win in the Class 4A final and give the Cadets their second consecutive championship and fourth title since 2014.

After an ill-fated fake punt left Cedartown with the ball at the 24-yard line with 3:27 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs were able to run the ball, primarily between the tackles, and reach the 1. But that’s where the Benedictine defense refuse to budge.

First down: Power back Patrick Gardner got nothing, with Cole Semien making the tackle.

Second down: Quarterback Reese Tanner got nothing, with Keiran Glover dragging him down.

Third down: Tanner got nothing, stopped by Alijah Alexander.

Fourth down: Gardner took it up the middle, but the Benedictine push, led by Jeremiah Thomas and Glover, got the penetration to stop the play as time expired and set off a raucous celebration that include celebratory helmet tosses and backflips.

“We knew they were going to run No. 2 (Gardner) or the quarterback,” said Benedictine senior Wilkes Albert, who led the team with 20 tackles. “We knew we had to stay low, and the lowest man won.”

Gardner, a 230-pound fullback/defensive lineman, was a key weapon in bad conditions. He ran 20 times for 101 yards. Tanner completed 6 of 12 passes for 37 yards and ran 14 times for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Cedartown (14-1) ran for 243 yards and had 280 yards of total offense.

Benedictine (13-2) had its problems with the Cedartown defense, too. The Cadets managed only 196 yards of offense, as Cedartown’s Eli Barrow (nine tackles, two tackles for loss), Xavier Hargrove (nine tackles, one forced fumble) and Harlem Diamond (eight tackles, one fumble forced, one fumble recovery) leading the way.

Cedartown also slowed Benedictine quarterback Luke Kromenhoek, a Florida State commit who completed 8 of 18 passes for 81 yards and ran 16 times for 34 yards. He was sacked six times.

“I’ve never been in a game like this,” Benedictine coach Danny Britt said. “For our defense to come and make the plays … we’re taking it back to Savannah.”

Cedartown missed a couple of scoring opportunities early. The Bulldogs drove to the 29 and the 39 before turning it over on downs.

Benedictine finally got on the board late in the half, driving 79 yards in 11 plays and cashing in on a 19-yard pass from Houston Jackson to Za’Quan Bryan with 57 seconds left.

The Cadets took a two-touchdown lead when RaSean Matthews took a toss to the right and ran over and around three defenders for a 12-yard touchdown.

Cedartown completed an 11-play drove when Tanner scored from the 1, one play after Gardner picked up a first down on furth-and-4.

The Bulldogs got the ball back when Diamond took the ball away from Benedictine’s Na’Seir Samuel. But Cedartown could not capitalize and was forced to punt.

Cedartown – 0-0-7-6-13

Benedictine – 0-7-7-0-14

B – Za’Quan Bryan 19 pass from Houston Jackson (Asher Sigmon kick)

B – RaSean Matthews 12 run (Sigmon kick)

C – Reece Tanner 1 run (Eri Valasquez kick)

C – Tanner 1 run (kick failed)