CONYERS - There's no doubt about it, this is a critical week for the Rockdale football team.
After opening the season with a 3-0 record, the Bulldogs (3-3) dropped their third straight decision Friday in a 6-0 loss to Cedar Shoals in Athens.
With four games left in the season, Rockdale needs a victory Friday at Winder-Barrow (1-5) to build some momentum for the home stretch and to stay alive in the Region 8-AAAA playoff race.
"Yes, we would like to build some momentum with a win Friday," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "But we realize they will not just give it to us for showing up. We must play. The kids and the coaches are working hard. We will finish strong."
The Bulldogs have lost their last two games by a combined 11 points, including a 37-32 setback to region leader Clarke Central two weeks ago in Conyers.
Last week at Cedar Shoals, Rockdale's defense played well in the loss, giving up only a first-half touchdown, but its offense managed only 80 yards of total offense and three first downs.
Etheridge said consistency on both sides of the ball is the key for the Bulldogs to end their slide.
"We have to get to where we are more consistent on both sides of the ball at the same time," he said. "The guys are working hard on both sides of the ball and playing hard. We must just relax and play our game."
Winder-Barrow is coming off its first win of the season last week, a 23-15 win over Monroe Area. At 1-5, the Bulldoggs are out of the playoff hunt, but they could play the role of spoiler.
"I expect them to come out throwing the ball all over the yard," Etheridge said. "We must defend the pass. Their defense will stack it up to stop the run.
"We must control the deep ball on defense and control the ball on offense. Our goal is to keep their offense off the field."
Friday's game starts an interesting stretch on the Rockdale schedule.
In their final four games, Rockdale plays three teams with losing records in Region 8-AAAA - Winder-Barrow, Habersham Central and Monroe Area.
The Bulldogs' only game against a team with a winning record is at Loganville on Oct. 31.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Rockdale vs. Winder-Barrow
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Bethlehem
Series: Tied at 2-2
Last meeting: Winder-Barrow won 26-21 in 2003 in Conyers