A defensive showdown in the making?
Salem, Rockdale square off in clash of county rivals

CONYERS - Tonight's game between Salem and Rockdale should be all about defense.

If the season openers were any indication - Salem beat Heritage 21-3, Rockdale registered eight sacks in a 28-6 win over Madison County - points might be hard to come by.

"(Salem has) got a good defense," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "He'll probably go eight-man front against us; it's going to be a good game."

"They do an excellent job of putting pressure on the offense," Salem coach Chad Estes said of Rockdale's defense. "(And) we've got to be able to eliminate the big play on defense. We were fortunate last week in that Heritage was not able to capitalize when they had the opportunity."

Those opportunities included two second-half trips deep into Salem territory, but the Patriots were only able to put three points on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile in Danielsville, Rockdale held Madison County to just 15 total yards in the first half and forced two turnovers and had six of its sacks in the second half. Etheridge acknowledged the fact that Salem's offense could show similar looks to that of Madison County.

"(Last week) I think we played pretty well; we've still got a few little things (to work on)," Etheridge said. "Offensively, (Salem has) got ... threats - Jojo (Smith), (Jarrett) Brown, (Tyler) Askew, (Bradley) Moon, (Julian) McLean. They're all pretty talented; similar to what we saw last week skill-wise."

While quarterback Smith is still hobbling from an ankle injury that caused him to miss the second half of the Heritage game, Brown took over under center and played well. The key is the rushing attack (190 yards last week), led by McLean, who rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown and caught another touchdown from Brown.

"Jarrett Brown came in and did an excellent job of running the football team on offense, (and) the one thing about Julian is that he wants the football every play," Estes said. "The bottom line is we have to establish the running game."

Rockdale's run game might be a bit better. In last week's win, the Bulldogs ran for 322 yards with Rashawn Binns (120 yards) and Tavaris Williams (113) carrying a majority of the workload.

"Rockdale is a very physical football team who likes to run the football," Estes said. "We must be able to stop their running game."

With both teams looking to go to 2-0, coupled with the county rivalry, there shouldn't be any extra motivation needed.

"It does not matter what the records are this week," Estes said. "I don't have to worry about getting the kids ready to play against Rockdale."

"They're going to play hard, we're going to play hard," Etheridge said. "We were 3-0 before we stubbed our toe (last year). We don't plan on stubbing our toe this year."

Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

· Who: Salem Seminoles (1-0) at Rockdale Bulldogs (1-0)

· Where: Reid Stadium, Conyers

· When: 7:30 p.m. today

· Last week: Salem beat Heritage 21-3; Rockdale beat Madison County 28-6

· Series: Rockdale leads 10-5

· Last year: Rockdale won 19-0