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Bulldogs hitting the stretch run
Rockdale looks to extend win streak

CONYERS - With two straight victories over Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals, Rockdale has dug itself out of an early season hole in the Region 8-AAAA standings.

Now, the Bulldogs (3-3) will look to continue their momentum against Winder-Barrow (2-4) in a homecoming matchup tonight at Reid Memorial Stadium.

As the regular season reaches its final four-week stretch, Rockdale sits one game behind fourth-place Loganville in the 8-AAAA playoff race.

"We feel like we've got things going, but we've got to keep them going," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "We are taking one game at a time and working hard to improve."

The Bulldogs started their momentum with an impressive 23-20 overtime upset of Clarke Central in Athens two weeks ago and followed it up with a 14-0 win over Cedar Shoals at home last week.

The next four weeks will be critical for Rockdale's playoff chances. After tonight's game with Winder-Barrow, Rockdale travels to Habersham Central next week, faces a key clash with Loganville in two weeks at home and then travels to Monroe Area for the regular season finale. With the Bulldogs trailing in the standings, there's no margin for error.

"We feel like we have a good chance (at the playoffs) and each game will get bigger and bigger," Etheridge said. "We have played three of the teams that have a better record than ours and have beat two out of three. We will play the third one in two weeks."

In fact, Etheridge feels his team's ability to focus on the task at hand each week will be the key down the stretch.

"Yes, we have worked real hard on focusing (on just one game at time)."

The task at hand tonight is taking care of a much improved Winder-Barrow squad. Last season, Winder posted a 1-9 mark in Region 8-AAAA with its only win coming over winless Monroe Area.

This year, Winder-Barrow's 2-4 record is a little deceiving. Four of Winder's six games have been decided by seven points or less.

"They have gotten better, but, at the same time, we feel like we've gotten better, too," Etheridge said.

Offensively, Winder-Barrow is averaging 22 points a game, which ranks in the top five in the region. Winder's passing attack should offer a good test for Rockdale's defense, which is second in the region, surrendering only 14 points a game.

"We will have to get good pressure on the quarterback," Etheridge said. "They throw the ball about 70 percent of the time."

On offense, Rockdale will be looking to control the ball and the clock with its efficient ground game.

"We need to control the ball. They have a good offense we need to keep them off the field." Etheridge said. "We need to be able to run between the tackles and then get our speed loose on the outside."

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

SideBar: If you go

· Who: Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs (2-4) at Rockdale Bulldogs (3-3)

· Where: Reid Memorial Stadium, Conyers

· When: Tonight, 7:30

· Last week: Winder-Barrow beat Monroe Area 48-41, Rockdale beat Cedar Shoals 14-0

· Series: Rockdale leads 3-2

· Last year: Rockdale won 32-9