DANIELSVILLE - Rockdale kicked off its 2009 season with a nearly flawless display of physical football Friday night at Red Devil Stadium.
Rashawn Binns and Tavaris Williams each rushed for over 100 yards and the Bulldog defense registered eight sacks in a 28-6 victory.
"I was proud of our defense, I thought they played well," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "We had that one screw-up on a kickoff return. If it hadn't been for that, it could've gotten really ugly."
Rockdale flexed its muscles on offense right from the start, running the ball at will inside and outside on the Red Devils.
After the Bulldogs recovered a Madison fumble on the opening kickoff, Binns capped off a three-play, 23-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown just 1:14 into the opening quarter.
And then, just 12 seconds later, the Bulldogs made one of their only mistakes in the game by surrendering a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown to Madison County's Jamal Cooper.
However, the Red Devils missed the extra point, allowing Rockdale to maintain a 7-6 lead.
And after that, the Bulldogs took control and never looked back.
On the next drive, Rockdale needed only six plays, all on the ground, to score again. This time, Tavaris Williams broke loose for a 25-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs took advantage of two Madison County punt team miscues to put the game away.
On the first one, the Bulldogs took over after a 26-yard punt at the Red Devil 40.
Binns carried five times for 30 yards before quarterback Isaiah Gresham scored from 7 yards out with 7:13 left in the first half.
After Madison County's punter dropped a snap, Rockdale took over in great field position at the Red Devil 35.
Williams had carries of 15 and 12 yards to set up Binns' second touchdown of the game, a 1-yard plunge with 29 seconds left until halftime.
Binns, a senior, rushed for 109 of his game-high 120 in the first half, while Williams finished the contest with 113 yards on just five carries
All told, the Bulldogs rolled up 322 yards on the ground.
"All of our backs ran well. Of course, when you've got the line blocking as well as they did up front, it makes it easy," Etheridge said. "We had a good fullback last year and we worried about if we could replace David (Calloway). But then with Rashawn coming in and hold them (Madison's defense) inside, then that allows (Kyle) Tippins, Dontavious (London) and Tavaris to do their thing.
"The problem we have is there's only one football. We need more than one to try to keep them happy."
Not to be outdone, Rockdale's defense turned in a stellar performance of its own.
The Bulldogs registered eight sacks with junior Grady Jarrett having a hand in four.
In the first half, Rockdale held Madison County to just 15 yards of total offense. In fact, the Red Devils had minus-15 yards of offense in the second quarter thanks to three Rockdale sacks.
"Our guys up front can play," Etheridge said.
Although there was no scoring in the second half, Rockdale continued to dominate the game with its ground game and defense.
The Bulldogs collected six sacks and two turnovers to put the exclamation point on an outstanding effort.
"Going all the way back to when we went to that FCA Camp, we were there with 22 different teams and just seeing how we were stacking up with everybody there, I felt like we'd match pretty well with about anybody we'd play, I think," Etheridge said. "Of course, I haven't seen Salem or Heritage. But we'll just try to take them one at time from here."
Rockdale starts a two-week run of county rival games by hosting Salem next Friday.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org