ATHENS - If one thing is certain, 2008 football in Region 8-AAAA has been no walk in the park, with more curves than a roller coaster.
In a season riddled with talent from top to bottom, with no clear winner at the midway point, two teams are tied for second, one for third and two are even for fourth.
Clarke Central is at the top at 5-1 with Salem and Rockdale tied for fourth at 3-2.
Regarding the Rockdale Bulldogs, they will try to edge closer to the top as they visit the Cedar Shoals Jaguars (4-2) Friday.
After winning their first three games, the Bulldogs have dropped two in a row. Nevertheless, they still remain in the playoff hunt - as do a handful of other schools.
"We are taking one step at a time," Rockdale coach Michael Etheridge said. "We know we have dropped two in a row that we feel we had a chance to win, but we must go from here. We are still taking one at a time, (and) I feel like we will match up well with Cedar Shoals."
A win Friday should put Rockdale in the top four of the region; however, a loss puts them that much closer to not reaching the postseason.
As for the Jaguars, they are one game ahead of the Bulldogs in region and play with no intentions of slowing down.
"(A win) helps us to get closer to making the playoffs," Cedar Shoals coach Xarvia Smith said.
On paper, both teams are similar offensively. Rockdale is averaging 23.0 points per game, while Cedar Shoals checks in at 22.3.
Defense is another story, as the Bulldogs are allowing 21.4 points per game, 12.2 more than the Jaguars.
In fact, Cedar Shoals has the second-best defense in region play, allowing just 9.0 points per game. (Apalachee ranks first with 8.0.)
But Smith has plenty of reasons to be concerned about his next opponent.
"They are very fast, they are well-coached, they are very physical (and) the offensive line is great," he said. "Their center is one of the best in the region."
According to Smith, the Jaguars must meet three objectives against the Bulldogs.
"We must tackle well, we must throw the football well (and) we must play hard," he said.
But despite the back-to-back losses, Rockdale is confident and ready to get right back on the winning track.
"The thing I have learned is (that) I'm positive our kids never quit," Etheridge said. "They keep going, which is great."
That being said, the Bulldogs have plenty of work cut out for them, too.
"We will have to stop their big fullback and passing game on offense," Etheridge said. "They have a great defense that is big and quick, so we will have to do some things to make them move around.
"We need to keep their offense off the field and (have) a great kicking game."
At any rate, the end result between these squads should give a clearer indication as to which teams will be extending its season.
"This is a great region," Smith said. "The teams are well-coached. Any team can win or lose on Friday nights, (and) it is great to be a part of this region." Jason Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: Rockdale at Cedar Shoals
· When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
· Where: Cedar Shoals High School
· Series: Cedar Shoals leads 8-4
· Last meeting: Cedar Shoals won 36-12 in 2007