CEDARTOWN, Ga. - For a moment in the second half of their Region 7-AAAA playoff play-in game at Cedartown, the Ridgeland Panthers began to believe an upset was brewing.
That dream lasted all of 49 seconds, or long enough for Nick Chubb to establish himself again as one of the nation's top running backs. The University of Georgia recruit, two plays after the Panthers had pulled to within eight points, went 50 yards in two plays as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 41-27 win.
Cedartown (9-1), which earned the region's No. 4 playoff seed, will travel to top-ranked Sandy Creek next week in the first round of the playoffs. Ridgeland, last season's state runner-up, ended its season 3-7.
Senior Noah Cooper led Ridgeland's 229-yard rushing attack with 112 yards on 18 carries and a pair of touchdowns
"Our kids have shown character and fight all year long, and they did again tonight," Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. "We got down early, but we fought back and had some momentum, but you can't give up big plays like that against a good team. And Chubb showed why he's one of the best backs in the state."
Cedartown roared out to a 21-0 lead one play into the second quarter after Chubb, who finished with 301 yards on 27 carries, scored from 4 yards out. Ridgeland scored on back-to-back possessions to get within eight late in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs scored with five seconds to go in the half on Israel Battle's third touchdown catch of the game, this one a 25-yarder from junior quarterback Harrison Barnett.
The Panthers rallied again on Caderius Word's 33-yard halfback pass to Chase Crawford, but two plays later Chubb raced his way around right end 41 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. The game was iced later in the period when Darrien Hargrave brought an interception back 98 yards for a touchdown.
Cedartown coach Scott Hendrix praised his team for pulling the game out after a difficult week that included the last-second loss to Gilmer County in a game in which defensive back Caleb Ely was severely injured.
"What we went through the other night was as emotional as anything I've ever been through as a coach -- not that we lost the game, but what the kids saw with their teammate," Hendrick said. "We have very high-character kids and some that are also very talented. Nick is just unbelievable. He's as good a kid as he is a player and he works so hard. There's not enough adjectives to describe him."
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