CONYERS - There's nothing quite like a rivalry game to help you get the bad taste of a loss out of your mouth. Such is the case for Heritage - a last-minute loser to Habersham Central - and Rockdale, which fell 21-14 to Salem.
While Rockdale enters the game at Charles Evans Stadium at 1-1, the host Patriots will be trying to avoid the program's first 0-3 start since 2005. Heritage coach Chad Frazier has confidence his team will rebound.
"Our kids are very resilient," Frazier said. "They come to work every day with a chance to compete on Fridays. We definitely are capable of coming back from an 0-2 start."
An improved offense would help. The Patriots have not only had trouble scoring - 15 points scored in two games - but the offense has lost four fumbles, a trend Frazier is hoping will soon come to an end.
"Ball-handling has been our major issue," Frazier said. "If we can get that one element corrected, then we'll be all right. We need to create some turnovers and make the big play when we need it (on defense)."
It was a tale of two halves for Rockdale against the Seminoles. The Bulldogs sustained a nearly nine-minute drive at the end of the first quarter and start of the second, taking a 6-0 halftime lead on quarterback Isaiah Gresham's touchdown run.
The second half belonged to Salem, which scored 21 unanswered points. Gresham found Dana Turner for a touchdown with a minute to play, but a failed onside kick finished the Bulldogs.
"We're very disappointed about how the game ended up, (but) we didn't quit until the end," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "We had a few mistakes there in the second half ... that we had to clarify this week. Salem did a good job, they played well. It's all a learning process."
Both rushing attacks appear to be in midseason form. Rockdale has averaged 245 yards in its first two games, while Heritage racked up 216 on the ground, and more than five yards per carry, last week against Habersham.
"Our run attack is pretty good; I felt like we could run all night (against Salem)," Etheridge said. "But we made some mistakes in the passing game. We've got to get a little better in the passing game."
"Physically, (Rockdale is) very impressive," Frazier said. "They always come out and try to intimidate you early; that has never affected us before."
Rockdale will also be trying to win its fourth consecutive game in the series.
"We play them tough," Frazier said. "Two years ago, overtime, and last year we lose by two. There's no doubt in my mind our kids will come out on Friday prepared to battle."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: If You Go
· Who: Rockdale Bulldogs (1-1) at Heritage Patriots (0-2)
· Where: Charles Evans Stadium, Conyers
· When: 7:30 p.m. today
· Last week: Rockdale lost to Salem 21-14; Heritage lost to Habersham Central 13-12
· Series: Heritage leads 17-12
· Last year: Rockdale won 40-38