The loss knocked the Purple Hurricanes -- who trailed 30-14 at halftime -- out of the state playoffs but still left them with a 9-2 overall record for the season, a sharp contrast to last year's 5-5 record.
Indeed, the Region 7B-AAA No. 3 seed's loss was as much attributable to its own mistakes as to what the Saints (7-4 and No. 2 seed in 5B-AAA) did in the second half.
Cartersville, which trailed 30-14 after the first half, scored 10 points then while shutting down the Saints' vaunted spread attack, enabling the Canes to close to 30-24.
However the Canes threw two key interceptions in the final quarter to halt their advance in the state playoffs this year.
"We played with a lot of heart," head coach Frank Barden said. "I'm proud of the way our kids represented our program, our community and our school -- with great class and character and heart."
"We had a great senior class that played and led our football team," he added. "I hope our younger kids can continue to build on the season they had."
The Saints showed early Friday night why they averaged four touchdowns a game this season, starting their first drive on the 20 with a pass from Jonathan McCary to Deion Sellers for a nine-yard pickup. McCary then hit Vincent Dallas at the 36 and the receiver showed he had an extra gear in outracing the Canes to complete a 71-yard scoring strike less than a minute into the contest. The PAT was blocked and the Saints settled for a 6-0 lead.
The Canes answered with a methodical eight-play march down field that was interrupted briefly when Tyler Will's pass was picked off almost mid-way through the first period by a Saint, who then fumbled the ball that was claimed by Trey Graves.
The Canes lost eight yards in the exchange but then made it up on two runs by Talique Cochran, the second of which was aided by a five-yard face mask penalty to advance the ball to the Saints' 31.
Will then handed the ball to Jamie Jackson, who scored, and the Canes were up 7-6 after the PAT was made by Preston Slemp.
The Saints' next drive ended with a Cartersville interception with 3:16 remaining in the quarter. From there, the Canes took six plays to score, with a Will-to-Jackson 7-yard touchdown pass opening the margin to 14-6 after the extra point was added 11 seconds into the second quarter.
Cedar Grove answered the next series, though, with a 3-yard touchdown run by Marlon Coley and a two-point conversion that knotted the score with 8:01 left in the period.
That's when the Saints began taking over the game, as they pinned Cartersville at its own 8-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. A run play cost the Canes five yards, and then they were flagged for a holding call in the end zone and the Saints were awarded a safety as a result, giving them a 16-14 lead.
Cedar Grove, which got the ensuing kick, took just six plays to reach the end zone, the biggest gain coming off a 45-yard pass play from Jonathan McCary to Rashad Ponder that moved to ball to the Cane 4 from its 49. Trey Mosley capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run. The Saints made another two-point conversion and went up 24-14.
The Canes picked up a first down their next series but then punted to the Saints, who scored 10 plays later. The drive, aided by a 15-yard pass interference call and a 36-yard run by Deion Sellers, enabled the Saints to carry a 30-14 lead into halftime.
Cartersville came out in the second half needing to stop the Saints' scoring machine while getting its own revved up. The offense didn't crank early, though, as the Canes fumbled on their first play from scrimmage.
Trailing by 16 points, their backs to the wall, the Canes found a way to go from the team that couldn't stop the Saints to one they would hardly budge as they limited the visiting team to three plays and out even though it started the drive at the Cane 37.
Cartersville started its second drive at its 22 but made just one first down before punting. This time, however, the Saints lost a good bit of field position, as they took over on their own 22.
A Saints' run cost them four yards and the second play of the series was a pass that Cane TJ Turner intercepted at the 23 and carried into the end zone. Cartersville made the PAT and closed to 30-21 with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Saints started at the 20 after the kickoff and threw one incomplete pass before a run cost them 13 yards. The third play of the drive was a pass that Matthew Bryson intercepted, giving Cartersville the ball at the Saint 19. Three plays netted five yards for the Canes so they responded with a 32-yard field goal by Slemp, closing the margin to 30-24 with 3:37 left in the third.
The Canes next got the ball with 1:42 remaining in the third and responded with a time-consuming 13-play drive that ended with an interception with 5:32 left in the contest.
The Saints took possession at their 28 and punted four plays later, giving the Canes the ball at their 47. Cartersville then tried a long pass but it sailed into the arms of a Saint.
Cedar Grove made little of the opportunity and then punted from its 18 to Cochran, who ran to the 10 from the 48.
That drive also ended with an interception and the Saints ran the clock out to claim their victory.
Coach Barden said the Canes had their chances but simply could get the score they needed.
"They played their hearts out," he said. "That's all you can ask of them."
SCORING BY QUARTER
1 2 3 4
CAR 7 7 10 0
CG 6 24 0 0
CG Vincent Dallas 71-yd pass from Jonathan McCary (PAT missed) 11:14;
CAR Jamie Jackson 31-yd run (Preston Slemp kick) 5:29
CAR Jackson 7-yd pass from Tyler Will (Slemp kick) 11:49
CG Marlon Coley 3-yd run (Rashad Ponder 2-pt pass from McCary) 8:01
CG Safety 7:56
CG Trey Mosley 4-yd run (Antonio Starks 2-pt conversion) 6:11
CG McCary 10-yd run (2-pt conversion no good) 0:46
CAR TJ Turner 18-yd interception run 6:42
CAR Slemp 32-yd field goal
1st downs 9 10
Rushes yds 36/138 21-105
Passing yds 35 192
Comp-Att-Int 5-12-3 13-21-3
Total yds 173 297
Penalties 3-28 6-60
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-yds 1-44 3-72
Rushing -- Cartersville: Jamie Jackson 19-89, Talique Cochran, 9-28, Charles Owens 5-18, Kendall Martinez 1-4; Tyler Will 2-(-1); Cedar Grove: Deion Sellers 7-47, Vincent Dallas 3-26, Jonathan McCary 9-21; Marlon Coley 2-7, Trey Mosley 3-4.
Passing -- Cartersville: Will 5-11-35-2, Cochran 0-1-1; Cedar Grove: McCary 13-21-188-3
Receiving -- Cartersville: Jackson 3-24, Trey Graves 1-7, Hayes Linn 1-4; Cedar Grove: Dallas 6-88, Sellers 3-68, Rashad Ponder, 3-29, Desi Banks 1-3.