ATLANTA - Rockdale needed to not only win its regular season finale against Druid Hills, but get help from another team if it was going to keep alive its hopes of reaching the state playoffs for the second consecutive season. Friday, the Bulldogs held up their end of the bargain.
Anthony Davis rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns and Rockdale erased a late-third quarter deficit in defeating Druid Hills 35-24 at Adams Stadium.
Rockdale, which finished the regular season 6-4 and 3-3 in Region 2-AAAAAA, will now hope Morrow upsets Newton Saturday. If the Mustangs, who are winless in five league games, defeat Newton at Sharp Stadium, Newton, Rockdale and Luella will all finish 3-3 and force a mini-game tie-breaker situation Monday.
Druid Hills (4-6, 1-5) had turned the fourth and final Rockdale turnover into a touchdown late in the third to grab what turned out to be its final lead of the night. After a high snap on a punt, Rockdale punter Zach Hess fielded the ball, but inexplicably kneeled down while doing it, giving Druid Hills the ball at the 17. Two plays later, Michael Scott connected with DaJour Maddox for a 17-yard touchdown and Druid Hills had a 24-21 advantage.
It was all Rockdale from that point.
On what turned out to be the final play of the third quarter, Akwesi Mintah took the ensuing kick off and returned it 68 yards to the Druid Hills 23. It didn’t Rockdale long to take the lead for good as Davis scored his second touchdown from five yards to make it a 28-24 game.
“(Druid Hills) took a chance, all night, they were pooch kicking short. I don’t know what they were thinking, (but) they gave us what we wanted,” said Rockdale coach Venson Elder. “(Mintah) took off full speed and he finally hit that gear. It was a heck of a play by him, we were excited to get that.”
Druid Hills went back 18 yards on its next possession, and on fourth-and-long from its own 2 punted the ball away. The Rockdale special teams stepped up again as Shakym Peters returned the punt 40 yards for another score that made it 35-24 with 7:25 left.
In a little over four minutes at the start of the second half, the teams traded touchdowns.
Druid Hills grabbed the lead briefly at 17-14 on Hasaan Enis’ second touchdown run of the night, this one from seven yards that capped a quick, four-play drive to start the third.
Rockdale took six plays to take the lead back as Tajee Steele completed both of his passes, including a 15-yard touchdown toss to Kentavious Preston to put the visitors from Conyers up 21-17 with 7:40 to play.
The teams then traded turnovers prior to the botched punt attempt as Steele was intercepted by Dax Tolson and Julian McKnight recovered a Scott fumble.
Druid Hills only ran 12 offensive plays in the opening half, but thanks to a pair of Rockdale turnovers, the Red Devils were able to put together two quick scoring drives.
Rockdale led 7-0, but late in the first quarter, Steele under-threw a receiver and was intercepted by Druid Hills safety Thyus Hughes.
On second down, Enis rumbled 54 yards and despite Peters’ touchdown-saving tackle, the hosts were set up with a first-and-goal at the 10. After a false start penalty and three plays that set the offense back one yard, and another false start on the initial field goal attempt, Ben Whealler stepped back five yards and still nailed a 38-yard field goal that got Druid Hills to within 7-3.
Midway through the second quarter, Steele and Mintah fumbled an exchange and Chris Williams recovered for Druid Hills. A pass interference penalty on Rockdale corner back Malik Dawkins was preceded by Enis’ 15-yard touchdown run that put Druid Hills up 9-7.
Rockdale answered immediately with an eight-play drive that gave the Conyers school a halftime cushion.
Davis chewed up 52 yards on four carries during the drive, including a 23-yard scoring run that allowed the Bulldogs to re-take the lead at 14-9.
Davis had a huge opening half, collecting 97 of his yards on just nine carries.
“Anthony Davis, he stepped up tonight, had some big running plays, he did a great job,” Elder said. “He had a big night for us.”
Rockdale’s rushing attack was potent elsewhere as well as the Bulldogs picked up 203 of its 285 rushing yards in the first half. Robert McRae was a big part of that (six carries, 47 yards) and McRae got the scoring started, capping a 10-play jaunt on the opening possession of the game with a 26-yard rushing touchdown.
Rockdale tried to add to its lead late in the first half, but despite a 27-yard scamper by Davis and Steele’s 16-yard completion to Mintah on fourth-and-15, the drive stalled when the first half clock ran out after Steele’s 10-yard run to the 5.