• Who: Rockdale Bulldogs (3-7) at Langston Hughes (9-1)
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
• Where: Langston Hughes High School, Fairburn
• Last week: Rockdale defeated Druid Hills, 18-14; Langston Hughes defeated Westlake 28-6
• Series: Langston Hughes leads 1-0
• Last meeting: Langston Hughes won 28-0 on Sept. 21
CONYERS -- The record may not look pretty, but the Rockdale football team is playing in the postseason.
After defeating Druid Hills 18-14 last weekend, the 3-7 Bulldogs will travel Friday to Region 3-AAAAAA champion Langston Hughes for a first-round game.
The journey to Fairburn wasn't an easy one for Rockdale. Under first-year coach Venson Elder, the Bulldogs were outscored 132-14 in starting 0-4 and didn't pick up their first win until Sept. 28. Despite a 2-7 record, Rockdale and Druid Hills played in what amounted to a state tournament play-in game at Reid Stadium.
With 1:54 left in the game and facing a fourth-and-goal from the 11, freshman Targee Steele took a handoff on a reverse, and instead of running with the ball, pulled back and tossed to a wide open Robert McCray in the end zone. The 11-yard touchdown was enough to make the Bulldogs one of the most unlikely playoff teams in the state.
"It's a big achievement for them. They stepped up," said Elder. "We could've easily packed it in (after the 0-4 start). We're determined."
If Rockdale is to pull off a major upset, it'll need Steele to continue his magic. Against Druid Hills, Steele scored the first touchdown of the game on an 8-yard run, added a 53-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and caught three passes for 76 yards.
"He's had a hell of a last three weeks," Elder said of Steele. "He has a very high football IQ."
Langston Hughes, a fourth-year school that won its first region championship by going unbeaten in Region 5-AAAAAA, comes into the game on a seven-game winning streak that started with a win over Rockdale. The Panthers threw four touchdown passes in shutting out the Bulldogs 28-0 at Reid Stadium on Sept. 21.
"They beat us with four pass plays (but) we got different (defensive backs). We play somebody we've played before, it's a 50-50 shot," Elder said. "You never know playoff time."
Whether the defense can stop Langston Hughes is one issue, but the Rockdale offense is another. Langston Hughes' defense, which surrendered 9.2 points per game during the regular season, held the Bulldogs to 38 total yards in that September game. Rockdale's offense ranks 62nd of 63 Class AAAAAA teams in scoring offense (averaging 7.6 points), according to Georgia High School Football Daily.