CONYERS - Rockdale has had two weeks to prepare for tonight's Region 8-AAAA game.
By the looks of the opponent headed south, the Bulldogs may end up needing every second of that extra time.
Apalachee, 3-0 and ranked No. 8 in the Georgia Prep Country/GACA Class AAAA top 10, invades Reid Stadium for a game that could turn Rockdale's season: win and the league record is evened at 2-2 and a high playoff seed is still a possibility; lose, and the Bulldogs fall three games back of the Wildcats.
"Two weeks to get rested back up, get everybody back in the same mode," Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge said. "Our point of emphasis is winning Friday night, which will get us back to 2-2. We don't change a whole lot, we just try to get better at what we do (and) Apalachee is a good football team."
It's been a frustrating start to the season for Etheridge's club. After having no trouble with Madison County on opening night, the Bulldogs had the lead against both Salem and Heritage, but lost to each county rival in tight games.
"It's been kind of disappointing. We expected at this point in the season we'd be 3-0, not 1-2," Etheridge said. "(We've) still got seven regular season games to play and hopefully games after that. We've just got to get it all together."
Rockdale might want to start tonight with Apalachee's rushing attack, one of the region's best, coming to town.
The four-headed monster of John Ansley, Christian Hoard, Jon Lee and Reggie Battle have combined to average nearly 200 yards and scored eight touchdowns in helping the Wildcats to their unbeaten start. The teams run similar offenses as Rockdale also relies on a potent ground game out of the wing-T.
"They're very similar to us, they run pretty much the same offense we do," said Etheridge. "They run out of what we call 'red and blue,' double slot, double wing, but they've got some good backs. Lee, their fullbacks are good; they give you a lot of threats coming out. We just got to step up and get ready to play."
Etheridge also talked about Region 8-AAAA, which like last season when eight of the 11 teams won at least five games, is competitive from top-to-bottom.
Only 0-4, Monroe Area has yet to win a league game, but the Purple Hurricanes have been no slouch, playing defending region runner-up Clarke Central close and last week led at halftime against Salem before falling.
"You look at what happened this past weekend, we went and watched Clarke and Apalachee play (the Wildcats won 21-7), that game could've ended 0-0," said the second-year Bulldogs coach. "Cedar Shoals got beat. Heritage got beat by Winder. Opens your eyes all over the place. Everybody can beat everybody, that gives us hope that we can get back in the mix. Things are going to work out pretty good if we just get on a roll."
Putting an end to Apalachee's roll would be a good place to begin.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: At a glance
· Who: Apalachee Wildcats (3-0) at Rockdale Bulldogs (1-2)
· Where: Reid Stadium, Conyers
· When: 7:30 p.m. today
· Last week: Apalachee defeated Clarke Central, 21-7; Rockdale was idle
· Series: Apalachee leads 1-0
· Last year: Apalachee won 42-0