COVINGTON -- The rivalry between Rockdale and Newton goes back to the mid-1950s, a game which Rockdale won 20-0, but this game has more meaning than a rival match with a possible playoff berth at stake.
"They want to beat us, and we want to beat them," Rockdale head coach Venson Elder said. "It's going to come down to pride and it's a community thing. It's Rockdale and Newton County; it's old-school."
After a slow start by both teams, Newton (2-4 overall) is a half game behind 3-0 Lovejoy with a 2-0 record for first place. With a region record of 2-1, the Bulldogs (2-5) are in third place, a half game ahead of Alcovy.
"What we're telling our kids is that this is our opportunity to secure our spot," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "It's a big ball game for us and we have to take care of business so we can put ourselves in the driver's seat. All we want to do is go out and play hard and do what we know we're capable of doing. If we do that, then everything else will take care of itself."
On paper, it seems like the Rams have the advantage since their players have been playing under the same system for quite a few years and they feel comfortable. But Allen knows that will only get him so far. For the Rams to remain unbeaten in region play, they will need to control the line of scrimmage and put themselves in manageable second-down situations. However, that might not be easy against a team coached by a man Allen knows quite well.
"What we've seen the last couple of ball games is that they've taken advantage of some of the athletes that they have and they've made some big plays," Allen said. "Those kids are put in situations that can help them as a team. Knowing Coach Elder, he'll take he's getting out of them right now but he definitely wants more. Coach Elder and I go back to when I was a ninth-grader. He coached me in high school. Their turnaround is not a shock to me. I know the type of coach that he is and the kind of demand he puts on his players."
The 42nd meeting between the two schools, which Newton leads 22-16-3, is also a way to bring the two communities together in hopes of continuing what was started Sept. 14, 1959.
"A lot of our alumni are parents now and back in their day, Newton-Rockdale was a big rivalry," Allen said. "There's a company that's going to be sponsoring a championship trophy for the ball game and a player of the game. We want to try to bring things back to where they once were with the two rival schools."