Fresh into the top-10 rankings, Cedar Grove wanted to prove it belonged by winning a key region game.
St. Pius had other ideas.
The Class AAA No. 7-ranked Golden Lions dominated from the outset, scoring on all but one first-half possession and cruising home to a 39-12 win over the No. 9 Saints.
Cedar Grove (6-2, 3-1 in Region 6-AAA) had one opportunity to make its intended statement, and it happened quickly.
St. Pius (6-1, 3-0) got the ball first and, on the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Joey Connors fumbled to the Saints.
They took over at the St. Pius 30-yard line, then ran for 11 yards inside the 20 on the first play. On the next snap, quarterback James Hartsfield ran to the 14, but it was called back due to holding.
It was a scare for a St. Pius team that gave up 28 points to Cedar Grove last year, and the Lions needed to respond.
“I thought we were ready to play, and we started off with a turnover,” St. Pius coach Paul Standard said. “That’s something negative. And I thought our kids did a tremendous job of not getting their heads down. They turned something negative into something positive.”
From there, Cedar Grove turned it over on downs, never advancing past the 25, and the Lions never looked back.
St. Pius scored touchdowns on four of its next five possessions, including two in the final 3 minutes of the second quarter that effectively put the game away with a 32-0 halftime lead.
Cedar Grove hadn’t given up more than 21 points since an opening-week loss to Class AAAAA No. 1 Tucker – and had held four opponents to single digits – but the Lions’ disciplined offense was overwhelming.
“If we do it right, hopefully we don’t have to block everybody; we can read them,” Standard said. “And our quarterback did a great job tonight reading; our fullback (Dalton Wilson) did a great job. But that’s all predicated by the play of our offensive line.”
Meanwhile, the defense forced the Saints into 3-and-outs on three of their next four possessions, surrendering just two first downs and 46 total first-half yards.
The Lions’ offense put up 256 rushing yards on the night, along with 68 more on just three passing attempts, putting them past 300 total yards. Wilson had a game-high 96 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 carries, only one after halftime.
SPX 15 17 7 0 – 39
CG 0 0 0 12 – 12
S – Dalton Wilson 5 run (Thomas O’Leary kick)
S – Joey Connors 7 run (Jack Pelt pass from Connors)
S – O’Leary 39 FG
S – Connors 41 run (O’Leary kick)
S – Wilson 5 run (O’Leary kick)
S – Nick Ruffin 42 INT return (O’Leary kick)
C – Bryson Allen-Williams 30 fumble return (kick blocked)
C – Anthony Lattmore 3 run (pass failed)