The Pickens Dragons finished off their final road game of the year in memorable fashion on Friday night, as they scored twenty unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal a 54-35 victory over the Cedartown Bulldogs to give the team its first undefeated record on the road since the 2006 season.The opening drive of this matchup between the Dragons and the Bulldogs looked a bit discouraging for the Pickens faithful that had made the trip to Cedartown Memorial Stadium, as the Dragons’ offense gained just six yards on three plays and was forced to punt the ball to a Bulldogs’ offense that is led by junior running back Nick Chubb, who came into the game leading the state of Georgia in rushing with 1,655 yards through six games.
Chubb wasted no time in proving to Pickens why he led the Peach State in yards on the ground, as he took his second carry of the game for a fifty yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 advantage with 9:15 remaining in the opening quarter of play.
The next drive for the Dragons was highlighted by an excellent ground game, which helped Pickens reach the sixteen yard line after eleven plays of offense; however, the team was unable to cut into the Bulldogs’ slim lead, as Jacob Godfrey’s field goal team was no good.
Looking to add some more big plays to his impressive 2012 campaign, Nick Chubb made another big run on Cedartown’s second play of the drive following the missed field goal, taking the ball seventy-nine yards for another Bulldogs’ touchdown, giving the home team a 14-0 advantage.
Now in a position where another drive without points could mean a long night, the Dragons’ offense responded quickly after the Cedartown kickoff, as Shannon Brooks caught a pass from Tanner Brumby on the third play of the drive and rocketed 58 yards for a Dragons’ touchdown, cutting the Cedartown lead to 14-7.
Following an impressive stand by the Dragons defense that saw Cedartown go three-and-out and punt returner Zach Hermann find a burst of speed and reach the Cedartown 31 yard line, the Pickens’ offense came back on the field and had no issues with reaching the end zone again, which it did on a sixteen yard touchdown run by Shannon Brooks to even the score at fourteen all with 11:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Now reaping the benefits of gaining the momentum, the Pickens defense once again refused to give Cedartown any room to work with, resulting in the second straight three-and-out for the Bulldogs. The Dragons then took advantage of great field position, advancing the ball fifty-three yards on seven plays and taking the lead for the first time in the game on a four yard run by Jake Dean, making the score 21-14 with 7:51 left in the second quarter.
The next Bulldogs’ possession saw Nick Chubb display both his incredible speed and propensity for making huge plays on second down once again, as he took a carry on second and eight 84 yards to tie the game 21-21 with 6:57 remaining in the first half.
Aided by an ample amount of time left in the second quarter, the Dragons took over on their own 31 yard line and had no trouble whatsoever with moving down the field, as they pieced together a 12-play, 78 yard drive that was capped off with an eleven yard touchdown run by Tanner Brumby to put Pickens up 27-21 (the extra point attempt was no good).
The Bulldogs then responded with another scoring drive of their own, as Nick Chubb took a handoff eleven yards away from the goal line and turned on a burst of speed that allowed him to score for the fourth time, which handed Cedartown a 28-27 advantage with just 0:49 left in the first half.
Down to less than a minute in the second quarter, the Dragons opted to just run out the clock and hit the locker room only trailing the Bulldogs by one point.
The second half of play opened up with a Bulldogs’ drive that looked destined to end with another touchdown, as Nick Chubb took thirteen consecutive carries to advance to the Pickens 24 yard line. However, the drive stalled at this particular point in time, and a 2 yard pass from Harrison Barnett to Andrew Pasley came up short of the first down marker, which meant Pickens would take over on its own 22 yard line.
Looking to regain the lead in this hard-fought contest, Tanner Brumby and Company hit the field ready to make some more plays, which they did, as they gained 78 yards on thirteen plays and added seven more points on a 2 yard touchdown pass from Tanner Brumby to Shannon Brooks with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, the cushion of a six-point lead was short-lived, as Taylor Novinger took the Dragons’ kickoff from the 1 yard line and ran it back 99 yards for a touchdown, which put Cedartown back on top 35-34 with just 0:42 left in the third quarter.
The Dragons’ next drive was crucial in the team having a chance at victory in the game, as the time ticking off the clock meant that it was surely do-or-die time for the road team.
Stopped after four plays of offense, the special teams unit hit the field with Tanner Brumby back to punt as he has done throughout the season, but this time Dragons head coach Chris Parker had something else in mind for the junior on this play, as Brumby took the snap and took off for the first down marker, which he narrowly reached to preserve the Pickens possession.
“It was a gamble,” Coach Parker recalled after the game, “but at the same time giving those guys the ball back was a gamble. [Nick Chubb] is the best player we’ve ever played against at running back, so it wasn’t hard to gamble knowing that we needed to keep the ball away from him. The boys executed it well, and it was a good call because it worked.”
Obviously excited by the gutsy call, the offense responded with yet another impressive drive, as they proceeded to gain forty-eight more yards on seven more plays, scoring another touchdown on another Brumby-to-Brooks connection, this one for 39 yards. The Dragons’ two-point conversion attempt following the touchdown was no good, which meant that Pickens held a 40-35 advantage with 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The kickoff following the Dragons’ sixth touchdown of the night showed that Coach Parker wasn’t done with attempting risky plays, as Titus Henderson pulled off an excellent onside kick that was fallen upon by several players on both teams and then shot backwards out of the pile as if by design and recovered by the Colton Prather to give Pickens the ball on its own 44-yard line.
Now in prime position to milk the clock and guarantee the team another victory, the Dragons’ offense hit the field looking to add to its lead and leave the Bulldogs with very little time and did just that, as they chewed up three minutes and forty-nine seconds and increased its lead on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Brumby to Brooks, moving the score to 47-35 with 3:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Down to their last dollar with very little time left in the game, the Bulldogs hit the field needing a quick score and an onside kick to have any chance at a comeback, but the Dragons’ defense had other things in mind entirely, as they pushed Cedartown back eighteen yards and forced a turnover on downs, which meant that the Dragons would take possession just five yards away from another score.
Pickens took no time in punching it in once again, which they did on third and goal via a one yard run by Tanner Brumby to increase the Dragons’ lead to 53-35.
The next Cedartown drive mirrored the one that preceded it, as the offense was able to get the ball rolling and failed to convert on fourth down after just six plays. The Dragons then took over and quietly took a knee, resulting in the remaining seconds on the clock to run off and a 53-35 win.
“[This win] shows that we don’t quit,” Coach Parker said once the final gun sounded, “and that you’ll have to play us for all forty-eight minutes. We’ve gotten beat twice already this year, but if you beat us you’re going to have to play hard for all forty-eight minutes. Getting down 7-0 and then 14-0 didn’t really deter us; we’re just going to keep playing…It says a lot about our kids and their resilience.”
The Dragons’ offense did its job throughout the four quarters of football in this one, as they ended the game with 504 yards of offense—272 passing yards and 232 rushing yards.
Tanner Brumby had his best game of the season as far as throwing the football, as he completed 18 passes on 23 attempts for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns. Brumby also had 23 carries for 111 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.
Shannon Brooks proved yet again why he’s the most explosive player on the entire Pickens roster, as he took 24 carries for 119 yards with 1 touchdown and caught 10 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Coach Parker had high praise for Shannon’s play in the victory, saying
“He was the difference in the game. That was probably the best we’ve seen him play this year. He’s getting better every game, and that’s scary for what he can do down the road, because it wasn’t a lot of coaching out there with him running: it was just good running.”
Although Nick Chubb had another big game, taking 24 carries for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns with a 13.46 yards per carry average, the Dragons’ defense did a good job in stopping the Bulldogs’ offense when it really mattered, as they forced Cedartown to punt twice and did not allow the team to convert on fourth down on any of its three attempts to do so.
The win moves Pickens to 4-2 on the year with a 2-0 record in 7-AAAA play, giving the team a one-game lead over the Gilmer Bobcats for the top spot in the sub-region.
Next up on the schedule for the Dragons is a game against these Bobcats, who are currently 5-1 after beating the Cass Colonels 34-24 on Friday night. Pickens will be looking to end Gilmer’s three-game winning streak in this highly contested series.