As the final seconds ticked down during last week’s victory over Heritage, a common theme emanated from the coaches and players on a jubilant Rockdale sideline: this isn’t the same old Rockdale football team.
If the first two weeks are any indication, it’d be hard to argue with any proclamations of a full turnaround at the Conyers school.
In two games, Rockdale has allowed seven total points (all seven came with a minute and a half left in last Friday’s win over Heritage), forced eight turnovers and allowed a total of 248 yards to its first two opponents. That those first two opponents happened to be Rockdale’s two biggest rivals, meaning a sweep of Salem and Heritage for the first time since 2008, makes it that much sweeter for second-year coach Venson Elder.
“All the doubts are over. This is the new Rockdale,” Elder said after the Heritage win. “It feels great. I’m new to this rivalry (against Heritage), but these kids have been waiting for a long time. The seniors had never beaten them. When you win games like this you grow.”
While the Bulldogs have relied on their defense through the first two weeks, the offense is coming along as well, led by second-year starting quarterback Zuri Minnifield. Minnifield has improved each week and against Heritage his 74-yard touchdown toss to Joseph Wright broke a scoreless tie early in the third quarter. Minnifield, Wright and receivers Terrell McLaughlin and Akwesi Mintah give Rockdale a formidable offensive quartet.
“Great play, and we were able to get a good, clean throw,” Elder said of the long touchdown. “(The receivers) really stepped up.”
Rockdale hasn’t won its first three games since that 2008 team and it will try to equal the feat Friday against Drew, a fifth-year school in Clayton County that fell to Riverdale by three points in its opener last week.
“We going one at a time,” Elder said. “Drew, we got to get ready for them. We got to keep moving forward.”
As for recent history, Rockdale will be looking to erase the memory of last season’s 42-0 defeat in the schools’ first-ever meeting.
IF YOU GO
Who: Drew Titans (0-1) at Rockdale Bulldogs (2-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Reid Stadium, Conyers
Last week: Drew lost to Riverdale 29-26; Rockdale defeated Heritage 9-7
Series: Drew leads 1-0 after last season’s 42-0 victory