Big third quarter lifts Patriots over Bulldogs

— At halftime of Friday’s game with Rockdale, the Heritage football team found itself only leading by a surprising seven points. But the third quarter was all Patriots.

Heritage scored 17 points in the first eight minutes of the third and rolled to a 34-7 victory at Reid Stadium. Heritage moved to 2-0 and won for the fourth consecutive time against its crosstown rivals. Rockdale fell to 0-2 and lost its 11th consecutive game.

The Patriots held a slim, 14-7 cushion at the break, but took control when the teams returned from the locker rooms. It helped that the turnover problems that plagued Rockdale a week ago in a loss to Salem continued Friday.

After going three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, Rockdale had a punt blocked by Myles Hunter and Ben Kennedy recovered in the end zone to make it a 21-7 game. Rockdale’s Zuri Minifield was intercepted by Steven Everson and Everson returned it 50 yards, which led to a field goal. Finally, with just over four minutes left in the third, Ryan Sutton made several nifty moves, tightroped the sideline and scored from 31 yards to put Heritage up 31-7.

“Turnovers will kill you…they’re not taking care of the football. We got to grow up,” said first-year Rockdale coach Venson Elder. “Coaches got to take responsibility…can’t just blame the kids.”

Rockdale’s turnover problems began in the opening half. A week after losing four fumbles in a loss to Salem, another miscue cost the Bulldogs dearly. Quint Gowan couldn’t handle a first quarter punt and Kennedy recovered for the Patriots. It took the visitors one play to end the scoreless tie as Mercer Bradley scored from nine yards to put Heritage up 7-0 with just over two minutes to play.

Obe Fortune came up big for Heritage on a five-play, 85-yard scoring drive midway through the second. Fortune, a sophomore, had the wherewithal to pounce on Bradley’s fumble after Bradley ran for 21 yards but had the ball knocked out. Two plays later, Fortune was wide open down the sideline and caught a 25-yard toss from Sutton, and after a 12-yard run by Myron Fears, Marshal Taplin’s eight-yard touchdown run made it 14-0.

Rockdale had a promising drive come to an abrupt end when Minifield fumbled after a 10-yard run to the Heritage 40-yard line. That turnover didn’t cost the Bulldogs, though, as the Patriots went three-and-out on the ensuing drive.

Despite a lackluster first half offensively, Rockdale shocked its rival with an excellent, two-minute drill. Minifield made up for the fumble by completing 3-of-5 passes, and coming up with an 11-yard scramble to set up first-and-goal. Minfield capped the drive with a six-yard hook up with Anthony Maul, who made a great catch in between two defenders for the touchdown that cut the lead in half.

The Heritage defense pitched a second half shut out for the second consecutive week, holding Rockdale to just 34 yards in the final 24 minutes. A week ago in the season opener, the Patriots held Northgate scoreless and squeaked by with a 9-7 victory.

“That’s the strength of our team, certainly,” Heritage coach Chad Frazier said of the defense. “Defense played extremely well.”

Heritage will try to stay unbeaten when it hosts Salem next week. Rockdale travels to Clayton County to play Drew.