Rockdale faces Clarke Central in key contest

CONYERS - So far, this year has proven to be deadlocked between most of the football squads in Region 8-AAAA.

With Clarke Central in first place at 4-1, three teams are tied for second at 3-1, two are tied for third at 3-2 and three are tied for fourth at 2-3 - making the matchup between Clarke Central and Rockdale tonight at Reid Memorial Stadium all the more important.

After all, a victory over the Gladiators would put the Bulldogs (3-1) back, at the least, a tie for first place.

"We are trying to take one step at a time," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "With the loss (last week to Apalachee) we took one step back, but with a win Friday we will gain the step back."

As for Clarke Central, after five overtimes - a 31-23 win over Heritage - one would think that it would be granted a bye week.

"It would be nice," Clarke Central coach Leroy Ryals said, "but unfortunately we face a very good Rockdale team."

Entering the Apalachee game, Rockdale was coming off its bye week, leading some to believe the extended time off may have played a factor in the loss.

"The kids fought to the end," Etheridge said. "They never gave up, which was very important for our program. Our seniors here are trying to set the standard for the other classes coming behind them. We still have to keep on improving on our fundamentals in order to get where we want to get."

As for whether or not it will be an offensive or defensive onslaught between these programs, only a short period of time will tell.

"We need to try and keep Clarke's offense off the field," Etheridge said. "They pass and run well. They play good defense and are quick like us. It will be a very good game. We must play sound pass defense."

Ryals understands how important this game is in the region standings.

"Every game is important," Ryals said. "We just try to take them one at a time and not look at the records until the end."

One of the focuses for Clarke Central this week has been special teams, particularly the kicking game. During the five-overtime win, kickers from both Clarke Central and Heritage combined to miss nine field goals.

"Once we settled down, we played pretty good on defense," Ryals said. "Obviously, we need to work on our kicking game, and I was very disappointed offensively."

Over the last four meetings, Clarke Central has a 3-1 record against Rockdale.

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.

· When: Tonight, 7:30

· Where: Reid Memorial Stadium,

· Series: Clarke Central leads 8-2

· Last meeting: Rockdale won 17-10 in 2005