CONYERS - For three and a half quarters, Heritage kept Rockdale off the scoreboard in Rockdale County's oldest gridiron rivalry Friday night.
When the Bulldogs finally did get points on the board, the Patriots produced their biggest play of the game.
Garry Peters scored on a 46-yard touchdown with 5:03 left in the game as the Patriots (1-2) rallied to claim a 14-10 victory over the Bulldogs (1-2) at Evans Memorial Stadium.
"Our defense played well tonight. They were just amazing," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "We came up with some big turnovers, which finally went our way tonight. If we had started out 0-3, it wouldn't have been much fun. Now, we're 1-2 and we got a chance. If we can play defense like that and take care of the football, we can have success."
Peters' touchdown run was the final act of a wild 1:24 stretch in the fourth quarter which saw the two teams score 17 points and trade the lead twice.
In fact, Rockdale dominated the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs had run 28 plays to just seven for the Patriots.
However, Rockdale found all game long that the closer it got to the goal line - Heritage's defense got tougher.
The Patriots stopped the Bulldogs twice in the first half by forcing fumbles - the first at the 4-yard line and the second at 25.
Heritage took advantage of the second turnover with a quick five-play, 75-yard drive for the game's first touchdown.
Quarterback Andre Wilson connected with CJ Wilson for 19 yards and then broke loose for 17-yard run into Rockdale territory.
On the next play, Tyrone Brown found a hole in the middle of the Bulldog defense and raced 36 yards for the touchdown with 7:05 left in the first half.
After that, the Patriots recorded a fourth-down sack to stop one Rockdale drive and then Quami Stanley intercepted a pass at the 3 to kill another, allowing Heritage to maintain a 7-0 halftime.
In the third quarter, Rockdale's first drive end on downs at the Heritage 15.
The Bulldogs' next drive was stopped at the Heritage 9 early in the fourth quarter after another fumble.
Finally, Rockdale took advantage of a short punt and got on the scoreboard with Brandon Story's 23-yard field goal that cut the Heritage lead to 7-3 with 6:27 left in the game.
"We haven't had the fundamental breakdowns, fumbles and stuff, like we did tonight. I don't where in the world that came from," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "We just haven't had any turnovers and then all of sudden we had some. We got in once (for a score) and it got called back, and then another time we had to settle for field goal. If we score both times, that's 14 points and it's enough (to win)."
Peters appeared to have stolen back the momentum for Heritage with a 62-yard kickoff return, but, on the next play, the Patriots fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs.
Two plays later, Rockdale's Kyle Tippins finally dented the Heritage defense and the scoreboard. The senior raced 67 yards for a touchdown off a double handoff, giving the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead with 5:30 remaining.
Heritage's offense didn't even have a second-half first down when it took the field. Wilson took care of that on the first play by breaking loose for a 36-yard gain to the Rockdale 41.
And then, Peters followed with a 41-yard touchdown run up the middle, taking over at quarterback because Wilson was winded by the previous run.
"Andre had just had that long run, so we need a change right there," Frazier said. "The play we called with the stunt they were going to run played right into our hands. It was just a little follow play we run with him and it worked out for us."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.