Bull­dogs getting ready for ri­valry

Cedar­town is look­ing to the back­field for of­fen­sive prow­ess in 2018.

The Standard Journal - - PIGSKIN PREVIEW 2018 - From staff re­ports

By the time this edi­tion ar­rives in the hands of lo­cal foot­ball fans, the pre­sea­son work will all be com­pleted. Prac­tice will be fo­cused on Fri­day’s trip to Rock­mart. Cedar­town will be look­ing ahead af­ter a scrim­mage against Chat­tooga.

As the dog days of Au­gust give way to the break for the fair, and a packed Septem­ber sched­ule, one thing is for sure for this year’s Bull­dogs: they’re ready to don brand new hel­mets and show off the ta­lent they’ve as the sea­son gets un­der­way.

Fri­day’s first test on the road against ri­val Rock­mart is just one part of the long equa­tion ahead for head coach Doyle Kel­ley to fig­ure out as his sec­ond year in the po­si­tion be­gins.

One thing is for sure: he’ll be hold­ing the leash tightly on a team that has op­por­tu­nity for tough play on both sides of the ball.

Let’s start with who is the top dog on of­fense for the year. It’s un­ques­tion­ably go­ing to be a big year for se­nior run­ning back Tony Mathis, who seeks to once again dom­i­nate the back­field and ev­ery­thing in front of him as he con­tin­ues his quest to rise to the top and be­come a house­hold name.

He re­mains a key part of Cedar­town’s lead­er­ship on and off the field as well, show­ing the younger guys join­ing the squad this year how they can con­trib­ute and per­form at the top. He also trav­eled a lot over the sum­mer as well, one of a few play­ers for the Bull­dogs to take part in a Florida State Univer­sity-hosted foot­ball camp back in June.

Ex­pec­ta­tions are high for Mathis.

He’s rated as the No. 68 run­ning back in the 2019 re­cruit­ing class based on the 247Sports Com­pos­ite sys­tem, and is the No. 1,038 over­all prospect. He holds of­fers from Louisville, West Vir­ginia, Wake For­est and oth­ers. He to­taled 1,935 all-pur­pose yards last sea­son (1,035 rush­ing yards, 456 re­ceiv­ing yards) while adding 444 yards on kick­off re­turns. Mathis fin­ished with 28 to­tal touch­downs.

Mathis will have plenty of help of se­nior Rashad Walker and ju­nior Kobe Pryor, both re­turn­ing starters to take up the ro­ta­tion as well.

Kel­ley said that Pryor and Mathis will both be tack­ling the main du­ties in the back­field.

“We’re go­ing to play both of them back there,” Kel­ley said. “Kobe (Pryor) has done a real good job in the back­field and come along real well. We’d be crazy not to have them in the back­field.”

Pryor joined Mathis at camp as a ju­nior, and he’s the power be­hind the pair in the back­field. At 6 feet and 200 pounds over the sum­mer, he al­ready is show­ing off his ta­lent too.

Pro­grams like West Vir­ginia and Pur­due are in­ter­ested in how he’ll de­velop in the two years he has left at Cedar­town.

He said since both Mathis and Pryor will be play­ing both of­fense and de­fense, both will get to have some breaks as much as he can give them.

Just as key to the team are other sea­soned play­ers on the ros­ter as well, along with some new faces who are seek­ing a chance to shine.

Quar­ter­back Taji Hud­son will get the op­por­tu­nity to show off his throw­ing skills af­ter hav­ing missed a lot of the sum­mer work­outs the Bull­dogs had in 7-on-7 play with a foot in­jury. He got back to the team in midJuly, and has been throw­ing ever since.

Hud­son is joined in com­pe­ti­tion for the start­ing spot in the back­field by sopho­more Jay­den John­son as well as Jack­son Bussey, but the ex­pec­ta­tion is to see Hud­son start­ing against Rock­mart this week.

“We’ve been work­ing a lot with Taji (Hud­son,) and Jay­den (John­son) has been getting some reps too,” Kel­ley said dur­ing a re­cent prac­tice ahead of the Chat­tooga scrim­mage. “We’re re­ally know more af­ter Fri­day night (Aug. 10) about what we’re go­ing to do.”

Then there’s a whole other side of the team to con­sider as well for de­fense.

Guys like Will Pil­grim and Zah Fra­zier will be busy on both sides of the ball this year, but they are just a few of the key play­ers to the Bull­dogs be­ing able to pro­tect against pass­ing and rush­ing of­fenses of all kinds. They’ll have to fill in for grad­u­ates like Cruz Ro­driguez and Joseph Gib­bons, who went on to play on the col­lege level af­ter leav­ing with the Class of 2018.

One key for Kel­ley is the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines.

“We’ve got more depth on those lines than we’ve had,” Kel­ley said. “We feel good about it. We’ve just got to see where our quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion is go­ing to land.”

A lot of those ques­tions were be­ing an­swered in the Bull­dogs’ trip to Chat­tooga County to play the In­di­ans in their lone scrim­mage of the year, since Kel­ley said they weren’t able to sched­ule an Aug. 3 game in the mix for the year.

Af­ter all, the team fin­ished with a sec­ond round play­off ap­pear­ance in 2017, and with the ex­cep­tion of a loss to Cartersvil­le won out in the reg­u­lar sea­son in­clud­ing their opener against Rock­mart at home.

There’s a lot of ground for the Bull­dogs to have to run through be­fore they can call the 2018 sea­son a true suc­cess. But they are on their way to big­ger and bet­ter things for the year as they reload their of­fense and de­fense and seek to dom­i­nate in Re­gion 5-AAAA.

Check out the reg­u­lar edi­tion to find out how the scrim­mage game went for the Bull­dogs.

/ Kevin Myrick

Taji Boyd runs with the ball dur­ing a fake hand­off play at prac­tice. He’s likely to be the Bull­dogs’ starter with his abil­ity to move on the ground as fast as he can throw through the air.

ABOVE: Cedar­town’s Tony Mathis goes in for the hand off dur­ing prac­tice last week.

/ Kevin Myrick

The Cedar­town of­fen­sive line is one area where head coach Doyle Kel­ley says the Bull­dogs are gain­ing depth this year.

RIGHT: Tony Mathis stands on the side­lines dur­ing a brief break in prac­tice ahead of the Bull­dogs’ scrim­mage on the road at Chat­tooga County. Pho­tos by Kevin Myrick

/ Kevin Myrick

Chadriq Neal grabs a re­cep­tion right on the side­lines and runs up­field against his own de­fense.

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