It was an empty Friday for the three Rockdale County football teams as each team fell to a region foe on the road. While Salem, which has been outscored 129-30 during a three-game losing streak that leaves the Seminoles at 1-4 in Region 8-AAAAA, has a much-needed bye this weekend, both Heritage and Rockdale will be back on the familiar home turf Friday.
Despite the 23-3 defeat against Clarke Central last weekend in Athens, Heritage can take some solace in the fact that it held the Gladiators to seven points below their season average of 30, mainly thanks to a dominant second half defensively.
After scoring 23 points in the first 14:13 of the game, Clarke was held scoreless the rest of the way and collected just 43 total yards in the second half. If Heritage is to bounce back it will need to have that defensive effort carry over into Friday’s game as another high-powered offense in Flowery Branch travels to Conyers.
The Falcons have been scoring points in bunches, averaging a healthy 34 points. Since starting the year with two nonregion losses to still-unbeaten Northside-Warner Robins in the season opener and West Forsyth, the Hall County school has beaten its first five Region 8-AAAAA opponents by an average margin of nearly 28 points, including last week’s 44-7 defeat of Winder-Barrow.
While the Heritage defense has had one major slip up — a 48-7 loss to Gainesville on Sept. 27 — the unit has been solid overall, allowing an average of just 13 points in the other six contests. The Patriots’ offense is another story. Last week’s three-point effort (Austin Kulp kicked a second quarter field goal for the only points of the night) was the third time in seven games Heritage has been held to single digits and only in a 23-13 victory over Winder-Barrow have the Patriots scored more than 17 points in a single game.
Rockdale has slipped a bit as well, and the Bulldogs can also point to a slumping offense. Since averaging more than 23 points in starting 3-0, Rockdale has scored just 47 points during a 1-3 stretch. That stretch includes two losses in the first three Region 2-AAAAAA games — Lovejoy and last week against Luella — and this Friday the Bulldogs will try to even their league mark when they host Newton at Reid Stadium.
Newton is unbeaten in region play at 2-0 and with Friday’s game begins a three-game stretch against teams that are all battling the Rams for state playoff spots (tonight and Luella, Nov. 1), and a region championship (Lovejoy, Oct. 25).
The Rams are coming off a victory over Druid Hills in which quarterback Romario Johnson accounted for all five touchdowns — four passing and one on the ground — and the defense held Druid Hills to just 60 rushing yards.
Flowery Branch has defeated Heritage three consecutive seasons, the only all-time meetings between the schools. Newton and Rockdale have been playing football against each other since 1956 (Newton leads the series 22-17-3), but Newton’s 27-6 win last year was the rivals’ first meeting since 2003.