Points may be at a premium when two old rivals get together Friday in Conyers. Rockdale will visit Heritage to highlight week two of the football season, and each team will showcase a stout defense.
While it’d be hard to find anyone in the Northeast corner of Georgia who doesn’t know about the host Patriots’ defense, which allowed an average of just 14.6 points a year ago and appears to be just as good in 2013, Rockdale’s unit is a bit more unheralded. Not that anyone has to remind Salem. In last week’s season opener, Rockdale held its other rival to 86 total yards, and a paltry 19 in the second half, in a 20-0 victory. Rival No. 2 is up next.
“Defense got a lot of guys back from last year, the guys are hungry,” said Rockdale’s second-year coach Venson Elder. “Those guys played a heck of a game (against Salem). Another rivalry game, another great game. (Heritage has) a great program (but) we’re coming to play. We are coming to play.”
Heritage won its opener for the fourth consecutive season, 14-7 over Northgate last week. While the offense still has work to do - C.J. Stone and Ryan Sutton did have touchdown runs, the last of which was the one-yard game-winner with 12 seconds to play - the Patriots’ defense looked to be in mid-season form in the road victory.
“I was very happy, defensively we played great, we really did, we played great all night,” said first-year Heritage coach Mike Parris. “Offensively we struggled a little bit. Early on in the year, doesn’t matter where you are, your defense is going to be ahead of your offense. Hopefully we can catch up offensively (but) defensively right now we’re playing pretty good.”
To continue playing well, the Patriots will be wise to keep tabs on Tajee Steele. Steele had a tremendous finish to help the Bulldogs grab a state playoff spot a year ago and he picked up right where he left off against Salem. Steele got the first touchdown of the season, after breaking an initial tackle, and later added a 69-yard run that gave Rockdale a chance to attempt a field goal late in the first half.
“It’s going to be fun, I think it’ll be fun,” Parris said of his first game against Rockdale. “It’ll be a good football game, we’re looking forward to it.”
The teams have been playing each other since 1978 and Heritage owns a 21-12 lead in the series. The recent history sways even more in Heritage’s favor as the Patriots have won each of the last four meetings - Rockdale’s last victory came in 2008 - including the last two by an average margin of 34 points.
IF YOU GO
Who: Rockdale Bulldogs (1-0) at Heritage Patriots (1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Evans Memorial Stadium, Conyers
Last week: Rockdale defeated Salem 20-0; Heritage defeated Northgate 14-7
Series: Heritage leads 21-12
Last season: Heritage won 34-7