ATLANTA – Carver-Atlanta fell to Cedar Grove in a heartbreaking 56-26 loss in the  3A 2021 GHSA Football Championship on Saturday at Center Parc Stadium.

The Panthers remain empty handed in the trophy case after their first championship appearance since 1967. Meanwhile, the Cedar Grove Saints marched back to East Atlanta with their fourth trophy in the last five years. 

Cedar Grove’s John Adams earns his first championship in his first year as head coach and the Saints finish the season 12-3, and 7-1 in the region.

Cedar Grove head coach John Adams lifts the trophy after winning the Georgia High School Association 3A championship after defeating the Carver-Atlanta Panters 56-26 at Centre Park Credit Union Stadium on Saturday, December 11, 2021 in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“It just means a lot to me and it’s a real special moment,” Adams said. “I’m going to go back to the East Side and just be with friends and family and we’re going to have a good time.”

Carver-Atlanta hit the field, scoring the sole touchdown of the first quarter with an Owens 21-yard pass to Deondre Buchannon. The extra point attempt failed, and the Panthers led 6-0.

Wide receiver Barry Jackson would be the first to hit the endzone for the Saints with a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jamar Graham.

A Jarveous Brown 25-yard run would set up the Panthers at the Cedar Grove 1 yard line allowing Lockett to rush into the endzone. Bowens would complete a 2-point conversion to take the lead back at 14-7. 

Janiran Bonner would score the final two touchdowns for Cedar Grove to cap the first half. The first drive would come from a 6-yard pass to tie the game at 14 apiece. 

After the Panthers missed a field goal attempt, Bonner, a four-star wide receiver, caught a cannon of an 80-yard pass from Graham to put the Saints on top 21-14.

Notably, both teams struggled early with 16 penalties in the first half with 11 in the first quarter alone. Cedar Grove would come out with 7 against them in the first quarter, heading to the locker room with 11 penalties by the end of the first half.

A heavy downpour and a lightning strike forced both teams and their fans to seek shelter with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter. Play would resume one hour later.

Cedar Grove running back Robert Snell celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 2021 3A State Championship on Saturday, December 11, 2021 at Centre Park Credit Union Stadium in Atlanta. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

As the sun reappeared, the Cedar Grove Saints’ offense raised their game.

“I just know these guys kind of came together and decided they wanted to win this game and did whatever it took,” Adams said.

Cameron Jackson of Cedar Grove forced a fumble and was recovered by Quinterio Lawson. On the ensuing possession, Graham hooked up with wide receiver Trevon Ferrell on a 40 yard touchdown strike, which would extend Cedar Grove’s lead to 28-14 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter.

Bowens would throw another interception picked off by Jakyre Horton. Dubinion would score on the possession, rushing for 11 yards.

Jarveous Brown would close the quarter with a 2 yard run, keeping the Panthers in the game at 35-20.

Cedar Grove solidified their win with three touchdowns and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Rashod Dubinion snuck into the endzone at the 1 to push the Saints up 42-20 with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter.

Quintavious Lockett would score the final touchdown for the Panthers, rushing 26 yards for his second touchdown of the game, which brought the Panthers to 42-26 with 8:54 remaining in the fourth.

On the next Carver-Atlanta possession, Kayin Lee jumped to intercept a Bryce Bowens pass to give Cedar Grove the ball right back.

Jamar Graham would pass to Ricky Lee for a 13-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. 

Lee would interrupt another Carver-Atlanta pass, and the Saints would put a bow on their stellar performance with Robert Shell breaking through multiple tackles to earn the final touchdown of the night.

After the weather delay, Cedar Grove outscored Carver-Atlanta 35-12.

“Man I don’t know if we just played sloppy because of the weather, but we got it together,” Adams said. “We got some stuff going on offense and then we ended up on top.”

Carver- Atlanta finished their season 12-3, and finished second in the region with a 6-1 record.