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Bulldogs aiming for 4-0 start

CONYERS - The last time Rockdale started the season 4-0 was 21 years ago - or before any of the 2008 Bulldogs were even born.

When they come knocking on Apalachee's door Friday, the target is clear - beat the Wildcats and make some history.

"Well, we really hadn't looked at any history on that," Rockdale first-year coach Michael Etheridge said. "We're trying to take it one step at a time and we're grateful for where we are."

In Region 8-AAAA, the Bulldogs (3-0) rest comfortably in first place - the only undefeated squad among 11 teams. However, a loss to Apalachee (2-1) would put them deadlocked among the region standings.

According to Apalachee coach Shane Davis, his team's biggest concern is itself.

"We played with no emotion, enthusiasm or heart last Friday at Clarke Central," he said. "That starts with me. We have to fix that. Rockdale is very talented (and) are athletic and fast at the skill positions.

"A win would mean we have another win against a region opponent and get us back on the winning track," he added. "(Earlier this week) we have concentrated on fixing us. Of course we have been preparing for Rockdale, but our focus is Apalachee - our tempo, our emotion, our enthusiasm."

Offensively, Rockdale has the upper hand. In three games, the Bulldogs have scored 83 points, averaging 27.7 per game.

"We've moved the ball pretty well the first three games," Davis said. "The last two we have just not been able to find the end zone enough. That can't happen on Friday. We need to score some points and try to find a way to keep their offense off the field. They can score at any time."

The Wildcats have chalked up a combined 42 points - 14 per game.

"Apalachee's got three good running backs," Etheridge noted. "(Jon Lee) is really shifty and shaky out there. He can really move and is a good back. (Christian Hoard) is a big fullback who can slam it in there. And (John Ansley) is a good running back and a heck of a receiver, so they give us some problems."

On the defensive end, Apalachee has the edge, allowing an average of 12 points per game. Rockdale has allowed 53 points, or 17.7 per game.

"Defensively, we just can't zero in on the run or zero in on the inside," Etheridge said. "They go in or out, and every now and then fling it out to No. 21. It means we gotta work on some things, but to me it makes it interesting.

"We're going to play better defense, we just gotta get better. I think the key to this game (is) being out of the county for the first time."

Though life is grand for Etheridge and company, they still aren't forgetting the things that got them to this point - fundamentals. And on the road, they must execute in order to remain undefeated.

"We always work them," Etheridge said. "You're never going to be satisfied with your fundamentals, so we try to work (them) every day. That's the biggest thing - trying to execute."

As for that 1987 Bulldogs team, they went 5-5 overall, losing five straight after winning four in a row.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Rockdale is hoping history does not repeat itself in that regard.

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

Who: Rockdale at Apalachee

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Apalachee High School, Bethlehem