CONYERS - It was just one game, but for Rockdale it might've been the turnaround it's desperately been searching for.
Following a 1-3 start, the Bulldogs shook off a tying touchdown and two-point conversion by Clarke Central with four seconds left by holding the Gladiators to a field goal in overtime, last week. Then, Rockdale scored a touchdown of its own in the extra session to pick up a huge road victory.
"Well, it puts us back in the hunt. We're back and got a chance with getting that win," said Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge. "It gives the kids some belief that we got a chance to get it done. We've had a good week of practice. Helps give us a little boost."
It helps to be hosting a team, Cedar Shoals, that has had as much of an up-and-down season as Rockdale. The Jaguars started the season 2-1, but have lost two of their last three games, including a two-game losing streak against Madison County and Loganville, where the defense allowed 64 points. For Etheridge and his team, it's all about playing better at home. While the Bulldogs are 2-1 on the road, they've lost both games at Reid Stadium, albeit it by a combined 13 points.
"We've got to play better at home," Etheridge said. "Hopefully we'll have more fire than them being in our house. I think if you go back through from first game to now, you take two plays out of each game and we could easily be 5-0 or whatever. We got a good chance (of making the playoffs), focusing on Cedar first."
Etheridge is hoping a win over Cedar Shoals starts a trend of late-season victories. After tonight's game, winnable games against Winder-Barrow and Madison County follow, before the Bulldogs host powerful Loganville.
"I feel like we get this one (today), hopefully we get Winder next week, that'll put us at 4-3, right back in the mix," Etheridge said. "(Wins will) make some of these last games really important."
Cedar Shoals will look a lot like Rockdale when it's on offense. The Jaguars feature a stable of solid running backs, including Wendell Harris, who scored a touchdown in last week's win over Monroe Area.
"They're big, kind of like us, lot of similarities as us, run the same offense," Etheridge said. "We're about like twins. They've got a couple good running backs. They've got a good offensive line. Offensively, they're a pretty good football team. I think it's going to be a good game Friday night. This game is important to us and I know it's important to them."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com
SideBar: At a glance
· Who: Cedar Shoals Jaguars (3-3) at Rockdale Bulldogs (2-3)
· Where: Reid Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m., today
· Last week: Rockdale defeated Clarke Central, 26-23 in overtime; Cedar Shoals defeated Monroe Area, 17-16
· Series: Cedar Shoals leads 9-4
· Last year: Cedar Shoals won 6-0