Rockmart, Georgia- The Rockmart Yellow Jackets (10-1) hosted the #1 ranked Cedar Grove Saints (3-4) in the second round of the GHSA AAA State Playoffs.
The Saints’ record doesn’t show what they have done all year, as they were forced to forfeit all of their first 4 games due to playing an ineligible player. The Yellow Jackets have dominated all year but come into this game as the underdog.
The Yellow Jackets came out firing on offense, picking up some quick first downs led by Keyshaun McCollough. The Saints jumped offsides on 3rd and long, which made it an easier 3rd down for the Yellow Jackets. Javin Whatley picked up the first down and kept the drive alive for the Yellow Jackets. Javin Whatley found Jakari Clark for the 14 yard touchdown pass to put the Yellow Jackets on the board first. The Saints defense would have to work hard for first downs to start the game against the strong Yellow Jacket defense. After picking up a first down, the Saints fumbled the ball on the next play, just past midfield and the Yellow Jackets would recover. The Yellow Jackets would pick up more quick first downs and gain some momentum after Jai Penson would run all over a Saints player. The Saints would bring the pressure up the middle and sack Whatley twice and force the Yellow Jackets to punt.
The Saints offense would finally get into a rhythm as they were moving the ball pretty well. On a 3rd and 1, Quarterback Austin Smith fumbled the snap and it was recovered by the Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets would fail to gain a first down and be forced to punt the ball back to the Saints again. The Yellow Jackets defense started to bring the pressure, getting 2 tackles in the backfield on 1st and 2nd down. Smith would pickup the 1st down for the Saints on a scramble. The Saints would drive all the way down to the Yellow Jacket 10 yard line. On second down, the Saints caught the pass in the end zone and dropped the ball. The Saints went for it on fourth down and were sacked by a swarm of Yellow Jackets led by Kieron Roberts. The Yellow Jackets would run out the clock and end the first half up being up, 7-0.
The Saints would start off the second half with a huge rush by Rashon Dubunion getting them deep into Yellow Jacket territory. The Yellow Jackets would stuff the run on third down with a huge tackle in the backfield by Sherman Davis. The Saints would go for it on fourth down and fail to pick it up. The Yellow Jackets picked up a huge first down by Whatley on the first play of the drive. The Yellow Jackets would fumble right at midfield and the Saints would recover. The Saints would pick up 2 quick first downs led by Dubunion. The Yellow Jackets would hold their ground and force the Saints to go for it on 4th down but Smith found Bonner on a 20 yard pass to tie the game at 7. The Yellow Jackets wouldn’t move the ball well in the running game to start the drive but would pick up a key first down on third down as Whatley found McCollough in the flats and he picked up the first down. To end the third quarter, Whatley fumbled the snap but quickly recovered before any of the Saints could get on it.
To start the fourth quarter, Whatley would evade the pressure and run 13 yards and pick up the first down and more. The Yellow Jackets would fail to pick up a first down and settle for a field goal . The field goal was good and put the Yellow Jackets up 10-7 with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter. The Saints picked up huge yards on the first play of the drive as Dubunion got free and picked up a quick 25 yards. The Saints were running the ball well and picked up another first down and an extra 15 yards after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called against the Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets also held the Saints to a field goal, which made it 10-10. Whatley picked up 8 yards on the first play and then picked up 30 yards on the 3rd down play. On second down, Whatley found Clark for a 43 yard touchdown to put the Yellow Jackets up 17-10 with under 2 minutes to go. The Saints picked up a first down on third down to keep their drive alive early as the Yellow Jackets defense wasn’t giving them easy yards. Penson had a huge tackle for loss on first down. On third and five, Smith scrambled out of bounds and the Yellow Jackets were called for a late hit out of bounds, giving the Saints 15 more yards with less than a minute left. On the next play, Smith found Ferrel as he was running in the end zone. It was caught but Ferrel never had full control of it, so it was ruled incomplete. On the next play, Smith went back to Ferrel but the ball was tipped by Clark and was incomplete. On third down, Smith found Bonner for the touchdown to tie things at 17 with less than 30 seconds left. The Yellow Jackets would just run the clock out and take this game to overtime, tied 17-17.
The Yellow Jackets started off with the ball and Whatley was sacked on the very first play. On third down, Whatley ran for a 20 yard touchdown to put the Yellow Jackets up 24-17. The Saints get an offensive possession to try to and force a 2nd overtime. Dubunion got things started quickly for the Saints as he picked up a first down on the first play. He would score on a 2 yard rush and force a 2nd overtime with the score tied at 24.
The Saints started with the ball and Dubunion, again, got things going very quickly for the Saints offense. The Yellow Jacket defense held the Saints to a 4th down conversion but the Saints would pick up the first down. The Saints would be forced back to the 15 yard line after a holding penalty. Smith would throw to the end zone looking for Bonner but Haynes would make a huge play and swat the ball away. The Yellow Jacket defense would hold the Saints to a field goal and it would be no good. All the Yellow Jackets needed to win was a field goal or a touchdown. On first and second down, the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t pick up any yards and on third down, they would pick up the first down and have the ball on the 4 yard line. The Yellow Jackets would take the ball all the way down to the 2 yard line but be backed up to the 7 after a false start. Whatley would lose yards on 3rd down and Rockmart would put the game in the hands of Freshman kicker, Jose Alegria. Alegria would miss the game winning kick wide left by inches.
On the first play, Whatley found Clark in the end zone, but was a little under thrown and was incomplete. On second down, Whatley was sacked and on third down, threw an incomplete pass. Rockmart showed trust in their freshman kicker as they let him attempt a 35 yard field goal. The field goal was good by Alegria and put the Yellow Jackets ahead, 27-24. Dubunion picked up a first down on third down. The Saints drove down inside the Yellow Jacket 5 yard line. The Saints brought in some extra lineman and had Dubunion in the wildcat. Dubunion would score as the Saints would beat the Yellow Jackets in heartbreaking fashion, 30-27.
Rockmart has absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. They battled the #1 ranked AAA team all the way until the end. It was one of those games that you don’t want to end and you absolutely hate for either team to lose. Rockmart’s season comes to an end as the Cedar Grove Saints move on to the Elite Eight.