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Rockdale looks to build on last week's victory

CONYERS - At this point in the football season, it's all about momentum.

Rockdale is trying to build some, hoping to make a run at a Region 8-AAAA playoff berth.

After ending a three-game slide with a 32-9 victory at Winder-Barrow last Friday, the Bulldogs (4-3) will square off with Habersham Central (4-4) for homecoming at 7:30 p.m. today at Reid Memorial Stadium.

Make no mistake about it, the playoff fortunes of both squads hinge on tonight's clash.

Rockdale is tied for fifth with Salem in the Region 8-AAAA standings with a 4-3 record, a half-game behind Cedar Shoals in fourth at 5-3.

After losing three of its first four games, Habersham Central has bounced back and won three of its last four games to even its record at 4-4 and pull into fifth place, just a half-game behind Rockdale and Salem.

"We try to take every game one game at a time, but there's no doubt this is a big game," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "Each game from here on out really counts."

Neither team can afford a loss tonight.

Rockdale's playoff hopes would be damaged severely with a setback, while Habersham Central's playoff chances are probably wiped out by a loss.

Etheridge expects to see a typical Habersham Central team tonight.

"They have a good team and they're big on defense up front. It's going to be hard to move them on the line of scrimmage," he said. "They are coached well on defense, they fly to the ball. On offense, they like to run at you and throw when they have to.

"They still run the same defense, but they have changed somewhat on offense. They were running the spread (earlier this year), but now they have gone to more of I-formation look, running the toss sweep and off-tackle power play. They have very good backs."

To counter Habersham Central's size up front on defense, the Bulldogs will use multiple formations on offense.

"We must make them move around by changing up our formations more," Etheridge said.

Defensively, Rockdale has surrendered only 15 points in its last two games. But the Bulldogs will get a good test from a Habersham Central offense that is averaging 31.5 points a game in its last four contests.

"We must keep the pressure on them on defense and gang tackle the ball," Etheridge said.

This game could come down to two things - mistakes and special teams.

"In every game it is important to limit our mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes usually wins the game," Etheridge said. "We have worked very hard this week to improve on our special teams. We hope it will show Friday."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: Habersham at Rockdale

· When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

· Where: Reid Memorial Stadium

· Series: Habersham Central leads 5-1

· Last meeting: Habersham Central won 41-8 in 2007