ATHENS - The Rockdale football team's hope of life after the regular season took a big hit Friday night in The Jungle as the Bulldogs dropped a 36-12 decision to the still-undefeated Cedar Shoals Jaguars.
The loss drops Rockdale's record to 1-7 on the season, but more importantly, it was the third loss for the Bulldogs in Region 8-AAAA South play.
The Bulldogs are still mathematically alive in the race for the postseason, but several things have to happen for Rockdale to get the last spot in the South subregion. The region playoffs are set to begin Nov. 9. The Bulldogs face Eastside next Friday in the regular-season finale.
Cedar Shoals wasted little time pouncing on the Bulldogs. In fact, the Bulldogs were already down 6-0 13 seconds into the game as Cedar's Juron Weldon took the opening kickoff and burst up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown return.
Rockdale's defense hung tough for the rest of the first quarter. Combined with a missed extra point and a missed field goal by Cedar Shoals, the Bulldogs were able to keep the game at 6-0 through the end of the period.
However, Cedar Shoals took its first possession of the second quarter and marched down the field. The drive culminated with a 19-yard touchdown run by Trent McGuire on a quarterback sweep. The kick failed, making it 12-0 with 8:20 left in the second quarter.
After the two teams traded turnovers, the Bulldogs had the ball back at midfield.
The first play of the drive was also the last play of the drive as Rockdale's Javon Lucas raced down the Cedar Shoals' sideline for a 42-yard touchdown run with 5:02 left until halftime. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bulldogs were on the board.
Cedar Shoals tacked on one more score before the break as McGuire hooked up with Casey Arnold on a 30-yard touchdown pass. Joseph Harrison connected on the extra point attempt, putting the Jaguars up 19-6 with one minute left until halftime.
Although it wouldn't seem possible, Cedar Shoals scored even quicker in the second half.
After no return on the kickoff, Rockdale fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Cedar Shoals' Jarvis Brice picked up the ball and rumbled into the end zone just three seconds into the third quarter. The kick made it 26-6 with 11:57 showing on the clock.
To make matters worse, Lucas was injured on the first play of Rockdale's next possession.
Cedar Shoals went up by four scores later in the third quarter as Hykeem Hall skipped into the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run with 5:56 left in the third. The extra point made it 33-6.
The Jaguars increased their lead to 30 with 1:26 left in the third quarter off a 25-yard field goal by Harrison.
With the clock running in the fourth quarter, Rockdale's Adrian Brown gave the Bulldogs a short-lived spark after returning an interception to the Cedar Shoals 10-yard line with 10:44 left to play.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Rockdale quarterback Marquize Warren fumbled on third-and-goal, giving the ball back to the Jaguars.
The Bulldogs' defense held on the ensuing possession and Rockdale got the ball back.
This time, the Bulldogs were able to get it in the end zone as Rockdale went to the air attack. Warren found one of his favorite targets, Ryan Culbreath, in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 2:12 left to play. The two-point conversion failed, making it 36-12.
Time ran out on the Bulldogs, and coach William Johnson had to endure another loss in game of 'what could have been.'
"We were in this game when it was 19-6 coming out of halftime. The big momentum shift was when snapped the ball over the quarterback's head and they (Cedar) got an easy touchdown," Johnson said. "The momentum shifted because it was a three-touchdown game. That changes what plays you call and how the kids approach the game.
"They (Cedar) are a good football team that is finding ways to win. We had opportunities, we just didn't have a lot of room for mistakes."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org