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‘Noles, ‘Dogs meet for 21st time

A big part of last season’s 3-0 start for the Rockdale football team was wins over county rivals Heritage and Salem. It was the first time since 2008 Rockdale had beaten both of its crosstown mates, and with last week’s win over Heritage, the Bulldogs can repeat the feat tonight.

For the 21st time, Rockdale and Salem will get together on the gridiron as the teams meet at Reid Stadium tonight at 7:30 p.m. While Salem will finally get its season underway, Rockdale will be hoping to continue the momentum it gained in a narrow victory over Heritage last weekend at Evans Memorial Stadium.

The Bulldogs went down by 12 points early and didn’t score their first points until an electric, 69-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Zuri Minnifield and Tajee Steele late in the first half. It was Devin Williams’ turn for a big play a few minutes later as the senior running back scooted 46 yards for a score, putting Rockdale ahead for good in a 28-26 win.

Players like Minnifield, a junior in his third year starting under center, the junior Steele and Williams, give the Rockdale offense the ability to break big plays at any time. Meanwhile, the defense, though against Heritage it allowed more than 24 points for just the third time in the last 11 games, still figures to be the strength of the team. In last year’s season opener against Salem, also at Reid, the Bulldogs pitched just their second shutout since 2011.

Salem is hoping a new season brings new results on the scoreboard after a disappointing 2013 campaign. The Seminoles finished 3-7 and haven’t had a winning season in any of John Starr’s four seasons as head coach. Starr and his staff are optimistic about the coming three months, mainly due to being in year two of the spread offense. Though quarterback Licash Lackey and his nearly-1,500 passing yards and 800-plus rushing yards graduated, the top two running backs in Tyriano Greene and Robbie Cyrus return for their junior seasons as well as top receiver and senior Kanome McIntosh.

If the Seminoles are to finish above .500 for the first time since 2009, the defense will have to improve. In 2013, Salem allowed an average of more than 26 points, including allowing more than 30 points in half its games.

In a series that began in 1994, Rockdale has won 12 of the 20 meetings.