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Defense leads Cedar Shoals past Rockdale

ATHENS - While Cedar Shoals' offense was a model of inconsistency Friday night, its defense was the picture of perfection.

The Jaguars scored just enough to make sure the defense's impressive performance didn't go to waste, beating Rockdale County 6-0 in the Jungle.

The win marks the second consecutive shutout for Cedar Shoals and the third win in a row over the Bulldogs.

Following the game, a pair of Cedar Shoals players tried to chase down coach Xarvia Smith and douse him with a water cooler. They were unsuccessful.

"The one thing we talk a lot about is defense," Smith said. "When we shut somebody out, they get excited."

Tremaine Goddard broke through the middle of Rockdale County's defensive line and broke a scoreless tie with a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. A missed extra point left the score at 6-0.

That would be all the scoring the Jaguars would need to maintain their position in the region. Heading into Friday's game, Cedar Shoals was alone in fourth.

Cedar Shoals' defense was nearly perfect in the first half. The Jaguars (5-2, 5-2 in Region 8-AAAA) did not give up a single first down in the first two quarters and held Rockdale County to just a single yard of offense.

The Bulldogs managed just 12 yards passing and minus-11 yards rushing, including seven plays that went for a loss in the first half.

"This is the game where it all clicked," senior linebacker DeDe Lattimore said. "Everybody has bought into this system. We played as a team."

For the game, the Bulldogs had just three first downs - one earned by penalty - and 80 yards of offense.

"We flow to the ball," Smith said. "Once they get to the ball, they are angry."

Rockdale (3-3, 3-3) appeared close to a score when it recovered a fumble on the Cedar Shoals 33-yard line in the first quarter. The next three plays went for minus-24 yards, and the Bulldogs were forced to punt.

On their last drive of the game, the Bulldogs used a 41-yard pass play from quarterback Darius Lucus to Ryan Culbreath to threaten the Jaguars' lead again with less than a minute to play.

"I'm not going to lie, I was scared," Lattimore said.

That fear prompted the linebacker to add a little more pressure on Lucus and help the Jaguars force a turnover on downs, clinching the win for the Jaguars.

Cedar Shoals' offense moved more effectively than the Bulldogs, but still seemed to die just when it looked ready to strike.

"That's our M.O.," Smith said. "When we get inside the 30-yard line, we can't score. We've got to get the ball into the end zone, and we have to get our passing game going."

The Jaguars' first drive of the game pushed the ball inside the Rockdale 20-yard line but ended with a missed 36-yard field goal by Joseph Harrison. He missed another field goal in the third quarter.

Cedar Shoals finished the game with just 140 yards of offense, despite running the ball more than 40 times with eight different players.

"They were struggling," sophomore defensive end Charmarcus Pittard said. "Just like everything else, we've got to work out of it."

Jeff Cochran can be reached at jeffrey.cochran@onlineathens.com.