Class 4A Blog: Benedictine retains its crown, staves off deep collection of contenders

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Defending state champion Benedictine stopped Cedartown on five-straight goal-line plays from the 1-yard line to close out an unforgettable 14-13 victory as rain poured down at Center Parc Stadium. Top-ranked Cedartown came into the game undefeated and was 1-yard shy of winning the program’s first state title since 1963. The defenses for both teams dominated throughout the game, with big hits and key stops and Benedictine’s goal-line stand was the capstone on one of the most thrilling finishes seen this season. Head coach Danny Britt joined The Drive to the GHSA State Title podcast for an exclusive interview on Monday. CLICK HERE

“I feel great and I’m so proud of these guys and what they have overcome to make it back-to-back,” said Benedictine head coach Danny Britt. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a game quite like that for the defense to come back and rise up like they did is unbelievable. …I’m so proud of them. We lost a big group last year and this team came back hungry and to have this type of success is unbelievable. …Resilience is what this group is about. We’ve been through a lot of adversity and they refused to let it stop them and you saw it there at the end.”

Neither offense was able to get in a rhythm for most of the first half and the game’s first scoring opportunity came on a 46-yard field goal attempt by Asher Sigmon that bounced off the right upright and failed to get the Cadets on the board. Benedictine finally broke the scoreless game open in the final minute of the half on a trick play that saw starting quarterback Luke Kromenhoek hand off to Houston Jackson on the reverse and the backup quarterback (Jackson) throwing a perfect 19-yard touchdown pass to Za’Quan Bryan to make it 7-0 at the half.

Benedictine received to open the second half and marched down the field and extended the lead to 14-0 with a Rasean Matthews touchdown run. From then on, however, Cedartown’s defense shutdown the Cadets, forced turnovers and it would be up to the Benedictine defense to hold off the Bulldogs and earn the victory. Cedartown quarterback Reece Tanner cut the deficit to 14-7 late in the third quarter on a 1-yard run. Eli Barrow led Cedartown’s defense in tackles and Harlem Diamond and Carlos Jones came up with forced fumbles to ultimately set up another Tanner 1-yard touchdown run with 4:53 left, but the Bulldogs missed the PAT and trailed 14-13.

Benedictine attempted a fake punt from its own 28 yard line and was stopped a yard short and Cedartown took over and marched down to the 1-yard line where the Cadets held strong for the victory. Cedartown outgained Benedictine 280-to196 in total yards with 243 coming on the ground. Benedictine gained 96 rushing yards off 31 carries and Kromenhoek finished 8-of-18 passing for 100 yards. Patrick Gardner, a 5-foot-11, 260-pound running back finished with a game-high 101 yards off 20 carries, but was stopped along with Tanner on the final drive. Benedictine’s Wilkes Albert (20) and Keiran Glover (18) combined for 38 tackles.