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Salem knocks off Rockdale

SALEM 28, ROCKDALE 7

Rockdale 0 0 7 0 — 7

Salem 0 21 0 7 — 28

FIRST QUARTER

None

SECOND QUARTER

Salem — Antone Leonard 54 interception return (Damian Gordon kick)

Salem — Ahmad Mitchell 26 run (kick failed)

Salem — Leonard 1 run (Gordon pass to Mitchell)

THIRD QUARTER

Rockdale — Kyle Beyah 3 run (Devon Dawkins kick)

FOURTH QUARTER

Salem — Gordon 5 run (Gordon kick)

Rock Salem

First downs 10 5

Rushing-yards 25-36 30-82

Receiving yards 56 30

Comp.-Att.-INT 7-22-2 2-10-0

Fumbles-lost 6-4 0-0

Penalties-yards 15-130 19-200

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushes-yards Rockdale: Willie Hardeman 6- −10, DJ Ardister 1-6, Zuri Minifield 4- −22, Demonta Graham 5-15, Desmond Graham 5-34, Kyle Beyah 3-11, Aubrey Brown 1-0. Salem: Licash Lackey 3-1, Ahmad Mitchell 8-49, Damian Gordon 9-19, Camron Johnson 2-16, Antone Leonard 6-13, Theo Burnett 1- −6, Jordan Scott 1- −10

Comp-Att-TD Rockdale: Zuri Minifield 5-15-0, Ronzell Teague 2-7-0. Salem: Damian Gordon 2-6-0, Jordan Scott 0-4-0

Receptions-yards Rockdale: Tajuan Warren 1-14, Willie Hardeman 2-9, Anthony Maul 1-23, Aubrey Brown 2-10. Salem: Keylan Wright 1-15, Richard Days 1-15

— It took a little less than four minutes for one rival to pull away from another Friday in Conyers. Salem converted three turnovers into 21 points during a quick stretch in the second quarter and pulled away from Rockdale, 28-7 in the season opener for both schools.

Salem (1-0), which during the recent GHSA realignment moved up to Region 8-AAAAA, ending a league rivalry with Rockdale, a new Region 2-AAAAAA member. But the two schools, separated by just six miles, got together for the 19th time and had an uneventful first 15 minutes.

Salem finally broke through in the second quarter thanks to its opportunistic defense and special teams. A bad snap and a false start penalty forced Rockdale into a third-and-long, and quarterback Zuri Minifield had an ill-advised pass intercepted by Antone Leonard. Thanks to perfect downfield blocking, Leonard ran, untouched for a 54-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Seminoles’ lead at the nine-minute mark.

On a short kickoff following the touchdown, Salem’s Richard Days recovered a fumble on the Rockdale 29-yard line, and three plays later, Ahmad Mitchell scored from 26 yards to put the hosts up 13-0.

Rockdale’s fumbling woes continued on a punt midway through the second quarter, and Kentrell Lodge pounced on the loose ball for Salem. Leonard rumbled in from a yard out and Damian Gordon’s two-point conversion toss to Mitchell in the back of the end zone made it 21-0 with 5:38 left until halftime.

“I felt like our defense created some turnovers, that was the best part,” said third-year Salem coach John Starr. “That was the difference in the ballgame. I’m proud of our guys for forcing the turnovers, but we can’t make a living doing that.”

Rockdale broke up the shut out bid midway through the third quarter after a lengthy drive. The Bulldogs went 10 plays, all on the ground, and marched 64 yards to cut the deficit to 21-7 on a three-yard touchdown run by Kyle Beyah.

Salem, which after starting 0-8 against Rockdale won for the eighth time in 11 games against its crosstown rival, took advantage of another Rockdale fumble, this time on a botched punt attempt, and after Kevin Holmes recovered, Gordon scooted in from five yards to make it a 28-7 game.

The game was riddled with mistakes as the teams combined for 330 yards in penalties, including Salem, which was penalized 19 times for 200 yards.

"I can't answer (why there were so many penalties)...because I'll get fined and possibly fired," said Starr. "I thought we played hard, just not as smart."