The Cedar Shoals Jaguars (2-6) entered senior night on a four game losing streak, looking to turn things around and get into the state playoff bracket. The Chestatee War Eagles (3-6) entered the game on a three game skid as well, looking to improve their 1-4 record against region opponents.
This game took place in very cold conditions, with the temperatures in the low 40s.
“The cold weather makes hits hurt a lot more,” senior defensive back Kurtland Carey said. But it was Carey who would deliver the final blow.
The first half was a defensive showcase, as both offenses struggled to get the passing game going. The first score of the game came when Chestatee senior Jeronimo Marin scooped up a blocked punt and returned it for a 7-0 lead. The first half had a total of five fumbles, all but one recovered by the Jags and two of them a result of overhead snaps.
“Our execution was sometimes good, sometimes bad,” said Jaguar head coach Leroy Ryals. “We had 500 yards on offense, but penalties and turnovers really held us back. We had a lot of aggressive penalties, we can work on those. We didn’t have any penalties over silly things.”
The Jaguars found a rhythm in the second quarter with the second drive ending with senior running back Jerdavian Colbert scoring on a 55 yard touchdown.
The following drive, senior Juandarian Silas forced a fumble, giving Cedar great field position. Small gains ended with junior quarterback Mandrell Glenn scrambling and finding the endzone to give the Jaguars the lead before failing on a two-point conversion. This gave the Jaguars a 13-7 lead going into halftime.
The fourth quarter is where things really got interesting in Waters-Wilkins Stadium. The Jags started the quarter in the red zone, and a rushing touchdown gave them a two touchdown lead.
The following War Eagles’ drive started off poorly, with a sack and false start costing them 10 yards, but the Jaguars were unable to hold on to the punt, and Chestatee recovered the ball.
A pair of flags put the War Eagles in Jaguar territory before senior quarterback Luke Bornhorst made it a one possession game, completing a pass to Wyatt Goode for a touchdown.
With the Jaguars up 20-13, the War Eagles unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick and the Jags started the drive with good field position. Yet another bad snap by the Jaguar offense was scooped up by junior Elijah Pruitt, tying the game at 20.
With two minutes left in the game, Silas caught a 9 yard touchdown reception to take the lead for Cedar Shoals. Chestatee countered with long scrambles by Bornhorst moving the War Eagles down the field. A touchdown would have sent the game into overtime.
“I was thinking that we just need to make a big stop,”Ryals said. “They were moving down the field at a great pace. I wasn’t nervous, I was just concerned.” A late hit call put the War Eagles deep in Jaguar territory.
With seconds left on the clock, Carey intercepted the throw from Bornhorst for the game winning interception. With the win over Chestatee, the Jaguars clinched a playoff appearance for the fifth consecutive year.
“I was really hoping that this wouldn’t be my final high school football game,” Carey said. “We came through, and we’ll keep playing. I don’t even know how it ended up in my hands. When I realized I caught the ball I was fighting for it with the receiver, and I was able to secure possession.”
The Jaguars will play at Marist on Nov. 12 where they will look to upset the third ranked team in AAAA.
“Marist is really good, they’re defending champions, they’re well coached, disciplined, all that good stuff,” Ryals said.