Earlier in the week, Rockdale coach Mike Etheridge spoke about how important it would be to contain the various weapons coming out of the Apalachee backfield. While most of the Wildcats' rushing attack was kept in check, one back slipped through the cracks.
Jon Lee rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, Reggie Battle added another touchdown run, and Apalachee knocked off Rockdale 20-14 at Reid Stadium.
Rockdale actually took a first quarter lead thanks to some nifty quarterback play. Isaiah Gresham pulled a rabbit out of his hat on a third-and-long play late in the quarter to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 advantage. Gresham was flushed from the pocket, and while avoiding several Apalachee pass rushers, found a wide open Tavaris Williams down field and Williams did the rest, scoring from 70 yards.
Little went right for the Bulldogs after that.
The visiting Wildcats answered immediately, tying the game on the ensuing possession. Lee carried three times on the drive, including an electric 23-yard run down the sideline and a 10-yard scamper for a touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.
A nearly one-hour lightning delay followed.
When the game resumed, Apalachee's offense picked up where it left off. After quarterback Mike Norman completed passes to Battle for 20 yards and John Ansley for nine yards to get deep into Rockdale territory and Ansley rumbled 12 yards to the Bulldogs' five-yard line. Two plays later, Battle scored from three yards to give Apalachee its first lead at 13-7.
Aside from the long pass play, Rockdale struggled offensively in the first half. The Bulldogs has just 86 total yards, 70 coming on the touchdown toss, while the ground game collected just 13 yards on eight carries. Gresham had a shot at two other long completions, but he misfired on one and Chris Smith dropped another late in the second quarter that looked destined to be the tying score.
Apalachee (4-0) had a chance to add to its lead with less than a minute to play in the second quarter after a successful fake punt, but miscommunication on a passing route led to Norman being intercepted by Michael Griffiths.
Apalachee, which won for the second time in as many years in the short-lived series against Rockdale (1-3), wasted little time adding to their lead at the start of the second half. Lee changed directions several times, sprinting out to a 44-yard run before AJ Ward tripped him up at the 23-yard line. Ansley later added an 11-yard run that set up first-and-goal and Lee scored from five yards to give the Region 8-AAAA leaders a 20-7 cushion.
Seemingly in desperation mode the entire evening thanks to a relentless Apalachee defense, Gresham scrambled and somehow found the end zone on a 19-yard run with thirty seconds left to cut the Wildcats lead to 20-14. But Brandon Story's onside kick attempt went backwards, ending the hosts comeback attempt.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.