On Friday, November 3 Walnut Grove traveled to Cedar Shoals to play the last game of the regular season for both of these teams. A 21-3 win for Cedar in this game clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008.
“It feels great man. It’s something that I haven’t experienced and a lot of other guys haven’t experienced. Before Coach Ryals came we had pretty bad seasons, but now we are here. He helped the program,” said junior quarterback Ki Yonnice Smith.
At halftime, Cedar Shoals was up 7-3 with a rushing touchdown by senior Jaivanni McDavid. In the first half, offensively it seemed as if Cedar would enter the red zone and hit a brick wall.
“We correct those mistakes like we always do. We talk to the players about it, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We just had to move on,” said Head Coach Leroy Ryals on red zone efficiency.
The Jaguars came out in the second half hot with two more touchdowns, and they prevented Walnut Grove from scoring.
With this win, the Jaguar football team clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“They wanted to accomplish that as a team goal from the summer, they knew about it. I didn’t have to say much about it, but we talk about our goals daily and how to get to them so they were aware of it. And the only thing I had to do was tell them what to do as far as region,” said Ryals.
“I think we played pretty well. The guys up front [the offensive line] need to get a lot of credit. They really had a good game,” said Smith.
“Their defense was fundamentally sound; they didn’t make too many mistakes. It was a hard-fought game,” said sophomore cornerback Jaiden Williams.
After clinching the playoff spot, the Jaguars faced off with first-seeded Rome High School, losing 63-13 to the northeast Georgia powerhouse. The loss ended the Jaguars’ season — their longest season in nearly a decade.
“We do the same routine as we do every other week. We try to keep it as normal as possible, and we have a long travel Friday, but we try to practice as normal,” said Ryals about preparing for the game against Rome.
Cedar held on in the first half with a halftime score of 28-13. Senior Jerphari Colbert scored the lone Jaguar touchdown, and senior Matteo Castile kicked two field goals to keep the score close enough before the half.
The second half was too forgiving for the Jaguars, however. In the third quarter Rome didn’t give up a single point while scoring four touchdowns. Rome rushed for a total of 352 yards with junior running back Jamious Griffin rushing for 106 yards on 17 carries and junior quarterback Knox Kadum racking up 53 yards and passing for 83 yards on four completions.
Three Jaguars made the All-Region 1st team for their outstanding performance this season: McDavid for his performance at wide receiver, junior cornerback Cameron Hudson, and junior defensive lineman Rodney Wright. Both Hudson and Wright will return next season when the Jaguars attempt to repeat this season’s success.