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Class 1A, No. 8 Spring Garden dominates Cedar Bluff, 41-12

Spring Garden quarterback Chapel Pope takes off on a run against Cedar Bluff on Friday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

CEDAR BLUFF – Spring Garden quarterback Chapel Pope’s eyes light up a bit when talking about his offensive line.

Yours would too if you had the holes they create to run through and the protection they give to pass.

Pope led the Panthers with 122 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. He also completed 5-of-8 pass attempts for 120 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown connection with Braxton Haney, to lead the Class 1A, No. 8 Panthers to a dominating 41-12 victory over rival Cedar Bluff on Friday night.

“It’s easy to run behind them,” Pope said. “You’ve got some big bodies there moving them out of the way for you. It makes it way easier for me.”

Pope wasn’t the only beneficiary of the Panther line’s blocks. Connor Bates also had a big night, with 120 yards on the same amount of carries as Pope with two scores. Cam Welsh collected 68 yards on six totes.

The Panther defense wasn’t too shabby either. That unit held Cedar Bluff to just 73 yards on the ground, including 10 plays for negative yardage. It also forced the Tigers to punt seven times.

“They were all focused and played real well,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “Our defense played well, which we expect, and I feel like our offensive line took the game over a little bit. (Offensive lineman) Matthias (Williams) played a really good ball game. We had too many penalties, so we’ve got to clean that up, but after we clean that up, we’ll be OK.”

Spring Garden (5-1) established its dominance early. Noah Barber recovered a Kade Browning fumble on third play of the game, giving the Panthers the ball near midfield.

It took Pope and the offense just six plays to take the lead. Pope capped the 46-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Welsh’s extra point made it 7-0 Spring Garden with 8:10 to go in the first quarter.

The Panther defense forced Cedar Bluff (3-3) to punt on its next possession, and once again, Spring Garden scored a touchdown. This time, Bates capped an 8-play drive with his 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Panthers a 14-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Cedar Bluff caught a break on a Bates fumble recovered by Hagen Stallings deep in Spring Garden territory early in the second quarter, but the Panther defense stiffened and forced the Tigers to kick a 25-yard field goal. Carter Dillingham’s attempt was no good.

Pope took to the air for the Panthers’ next score late in the second quarter when he found an open Haney for a 75-yard touchdown. Spring Garden led at halftime 21-0.

Bates opened the third quarter with a 60-yard scoring scamper to provide the Panthers a 28-0 lead. Following a Tiger punt, Pope scored on a 54-yard run on his last carry of the game at the 8:36 mark. Pope’s final touchdown put Spring Garden up 35-0.

Panther backup quarterback Barber connected with Welsh on a 4-yard touchdown toss to close out the third quarter to push Spring Garden’s lead to 41-0.

The only drama left in the game was if Spring Garden’s reserves could preserve the shutout, but Cedar Bluff managed two scores. The first was a 64-yard Kaden Pack touchdown connection with Aden Green with 3:17 remaining. Hunter Stallings scored on a 15-yard run on the final play of the game.

Pack led Cedar Bluff by completing 5-of-8 pass attempts for 120 yards and a touchdown. It was the second straight game he started in place of Bucky Leek, who is still recovering from an ankle sprain.

“This was a good game for us to get better,” Pope said. “It’s a good win versus a good rival. It makes you feel better about yourself. It makes you more confident in yourself, but the region is most important. We’ve got TCC (Talladega County Central) next week. That’s what we’re looking forward to now.”

Cedar Bluff also jumps back into region play at Valley Head next Friday.

NOTE: Cedar Bluff honored two of its hall of fame greats prior to Friday night’s game with Spring Garden: Jim Bouchillon and David Bedwell.

Bouchillon played football at Cedar Bluff High school for five years and was a member of two state championship teams (1962-63). He was an all-state selection in both those seasons and played on Tiger teams that went a combined 38-0-1 from 1959-62.

Bouchillon went on to play football at Auburn University, where he was a three-year starter. While playing on the Freshmen Team in 1964, he was coached by the legendary Vince Dooley. He started at wingback and defensive end during his tenure at Auburn.

Bedwell played football at Cedar Bluff High School for five years. He was an all-state selection two of those years (1962-63). Cedar Bluff’s football teams went 47-1-2 during his tenure. He went on to play college football at the University of Alabama, where he won a national championship and was a member of two bowl victories.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, Bedwell became a successful coach of various sports including football, basketball, track, and tennis. His successful coaching career included three county girls’ basketball championships, three area girls’ basketball championships, and culminated with a girls’ basketball state championship at Spring Garden High School in 1987.

Bedwell is the only person in Cherokee County history to win a state championship as both a high school player and coach as well as a national championship as a college player.

Cedar Bluff assistant principal Jonathan McWhorter, left, shakes Jim Bouchillon’s hand after he is presented with a plaque commemorating his football career. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
Cedar Bluff football great David Bedwell, left, is presented a plaque honoring his career from Cedar Bluff principal Torey McDaniel prior to Friday night’s Spring Garden at Cedar Bluff football game. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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