CONYERS - For the first time in history, Salem actually had home field advantage Friday night at the newly built Seminole Stadium.
Nevertheless, there was no Hollywood-scripted ending for the Seminoles, as the Rockdale Bulldogs blanked them 19-0.
"It's not a statement game," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "I mean, it's a rivalry game between the two schools. (Salem) had a lot of juice early since opening up a new stadium and all, but they've got a good team and are going to be alright."
Leading the way for the Bulldogs (2-0) was running back David Calloway, who rushed for 68 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns.
"It's great for Salem to have our own home turf," said Seminoles coach Chad Estes, "but it was a disappointing and tough loss. Rockdale played well."
For Calloway, it was certainly a tale of two halves for the senior standout. After all, the Seminoles (0-2) held him to just one yard during the entire first half.
Overall, Salem held Rockdale to minus two yards rushing in the first half.
But after a scoreless first quarter, the big play came by way of Rockdale quarterback Isaiah Gresham, who launched a 60-yard pass to receiver Marquis Johnson. The only player stopping him from entering the end zone was Salem's Anthony Armstrong, who dragged Johnson down at the four-yard line.
Two plays later Calloway had his first score of the game after a two-yard run at the 9:45 mark. After a blocked point-after attempt, Rockdale had the lead, 6-0.
"Well, the big thing was I don't know if our offensive line was a little shocked or what because (Salem) played out of their butt on their defensive line that first half," Etheridge said. "We couldn't get anything, so I figured we'd try to throw the ball because we've got great receivers. Chad (Estes) and them did a great job of moving their formation around in the first half.
"Fortunately, our coaches made some adjustments at halftime."
Indeed they did, although that didn't come until the fourth quarter.
After a scoreless third, Calloway added another touchdown with 6:15 remaining, this time from 10 yards out. After a failed two-point conversion, the Bulldogs had a comfortable 12-0 advantage.
Sealing the deal, they added another score on their very next possession. One play after a 38-yard pass by Gresham to Ryan Culbreath, Calloway had his third rushing touchdown on a 5-yard dash.
"I thought we had a lot of opportunities early," Estes said. "We're just not quite there yet, but I think the game was a lot closer than what the scoreboard read. (Rockdale) scored a couple late, but you've got to give credit to them. I think they got a little stronger and we kinda wore down a little bit."
Offensively, Rockdale had 262 total yards, including 13 first downs and zero turnovers. Meanwhile, Salem racked up 228 yards of offense with 14 first downs.
Each team had four penalties for a loss of 20 yards.
Gresham ended 7-of-13 with 131 passing yards. Salem quarterback Jarrett Brown finished 7-of-19 with one interception.
Bradley Moon led the Seminoles with 80 yards rushing on 14 carries.
"Our kids fought hard," Estes said. "I know they're disappointed, but they're going to bounce back. We just gotta take them one game at a time."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.