After last week’s victory over Morrow, Rockdale football coach Venson Elder indicated a lack of surprise in the outcome, considering his Bulldogs were probably the favorite going into the Region 2-AAAAAA contest. And while Rockdale accomplished a number of things with the 30-6 victory - mainly winning handedly in its league opener and getting off to a 4-1 start for the first time since 1999 - coming up victorious in a game you’re supposed to win isn’t quite the same as pulling a giant upset.
That’s the obstacle that faces the second-year coach and his upstart bunch tonight.
Rockdale will welcome Lovejoy to Reid Stadium Friday in a match up of 4-1 teams looking to stay perfect in region play. Lovejoy is coming off an unbeaten region championship and a narrow defeat at the hands of Norcross in the Class AAAAAA state championship game. For Rockdale pulling off a shocker against one of Class AAAAAA’s finest teams would put a perfect cap on a highly-successful first half of the season. Not to mention, the Bulldogs wouldn’t mind exercising a few demons from 2012.
Lovejoy went into the state title game on a 12-game winning streak, and one of those victories was a 41-0 pasting of Rockdale that was the first of four shut outs in five league games for the Clayton County school.
If Rockdale has truly turned the corner in 2013 after going a combined 8-23 from 2010-2012, the reigning region champions will find a much different team on the field Friday.
“We got to get used to playing against good teams and beating them, that’s what this team needs to learn to do,” said Elder. “They need to believe they can win the big games, and we got to stay on them until we do.”
The high-powered Wildcats’ offense, which is led by junior wide receiver Preston Williams, a Tennessee commitment, have picked up right where it left off in 2012 (averaged 41.6 points). Lovejoy is averaging 35 points, which includes a 59-0 victory over Druid Hills a week ago.
“They’re going to run the ‘I’, they’re going to try and power you (and) they’re probably going to have the same system that they had last year,” Elder said of Lovejoy. “They got different players, so do we. We need to just play up to our potential.”
The outcome could be decided by the defenses. Rockdale’s much-improved unit has allowed 68 points in five games, while Lovejoy’s, led by linebacker and Mississippi commitment Demarquis Gates, has allowed an average of less than 18 points.