Two football rivals headed in opposite directions will get together Friday in Conyers.
Salem, which will have its Homecoming celebration, ran away from Loganville last week in a 41-17 victory, the Seminoles' second consecutive win to improve to 3-2. Meanwhile, visiting Rockdale, rebuilding after losing its three top defensive players and a number of offensive skill players, is in the midst of a four-game losing streak and has been blown out in their last two games against Region 8-AAAA's top two teams.
Salem's two-game winning streak, which includes a week-four triumph over Apalachee, came on the heels of a heartbreaking loss at Habersham Central. The Seminoles led by 11 points with three minutes left, but the host Raiders scored a pair of touchdowns to walk away with a stunning victory. Instead of folding at 1-2, Salem had an impressive defensive showing at home against Apalachee, then cruised to last weekend's victory to get back into the playoff hunt in Region 8-AAAA.
"I'm real satisfied that our kids are buying in and pulling for each other, just a team effort, it's been really rewarding," said second-year Salem coach John Starr. "I just hope we can continue to build on that. A little bit disappointed in our record right now, but I'm satisfied with our team growth. I feel like we're starting to play together as a team, that's very important for us."
Starr feels his defense, which has given up just 24 points in the last two weeks after allowing 84 in the first three contests, continues to improve. "(The defense has) gotten better every week, we've just got to be consistent, we still lack consistency," Starr said. "We're spending a little too much time on the field ... but they are playing a little bit better."
Rockdale followed its 2009 final four run with a difficult, 4-6 season a year ago and things haven't gotten any better in 2011. The Bulldogs squeaked by Winder-Barrow in week one, but have been outscored 150-17 during their current four-game skid. Despite the struggles, Starr knows the rivalry has the potential to bring out the best in Rockdale.
"I think the familiarity with each other, as far as coaches and players, (Rockdale head) coach (Mike) Etheridge knows about our guys, about Salem, some of the guys on my staff have a lot of familiarity," said Starr. "A lot of the players know each other. We got to be focused and bring our 'A' game."