MOUNT AIRY - Rockdale took another step forward in its quest for a Region 8-AAAA playoff spot Friday night at Raider Stadium.
The Bulldogs (5-3) cruised to a 34-14 victory at Habersham Central (4-4), collecting their fourth straight victory and setting up a key showdown next week with Loganville at Reid Memorial Stadium.
Rockdale's ground game was simply overpowering, outgaining the Raiders 350-58. In fact, the Bulldogs struck for four big plays that accounted for 172 yards of their rushing total.
Quarterback Isaiah Gresham set up the Bulldogs' first score with a 42-yard run. Four plays later, Tavaris Williams broke loose for a 31-yard touchdown run at 6:26 of the first quarter. The extra point was blocked, so the Bulldogs held a 6-0 advantage.
Habersham Central took its only lead of the game at 7-6 less than three minutes later on Kevin Ellison's 9-yard run touchdown at 3:53. Dee Ellison's 50-yard interception return set up the score.
Rockdale's Williams needed only one play to steal back the momentum. The senior, who rushed for 156 yards in the game, ripped off a 74-yard run down to the Raider 6 on the Bulldogs' next play from scrimmage.
Two plays later, Gresham scored from 2 yards out on a quarterback keeper up the middle. This time, the extra point hit the upright, giving the Bulldogs a 12-7 lead.
Rockdale capped off a strong first half with a big touchdown on the first half's final play. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Raider 15, the Bulldogs eschewed the field goal attemmpt and rolled the dice on offense.
Gresham rolled to his left and then threw back to his right, finding Dana Turner all alone in the back of the end zone for a 19-7 halftime lead.
Rockdale's defense set up the next score late in the third quarter when Devon Washington picked off a Habersham Central pass and returned the ball 21 yards to the Raider 40.
Nine plays later, Kyle Tippins hammered into the end zone on a fourth-down 1-yard plunge with 10:16 left in the game. On the extra point, Darius Lucas connected with Washington for the two-point conversion and a 27-7 lead.
The Raiders struck only 1:13 later when wide Jamaal Walters wrestled away Austin Brown's deep pass from a Rockdale defender and then walked into the end zone on a 64-yard touchdown connection, cutting the Rockdale lead to 27-14 with 8:13 to play.
However, the Raiders could get no close thanks to Rockdale's ground game and defense.
Defensive back AJ Ward got the ball back for the Bulldogs with an interception near midfield.
With 2:08 left in the game, Williams put the icing on the cake for Rockdale, scoring his second touchdown of the game on a 25-yard run.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.