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Rockdale boys start strong on pitch

The Rockdale boys soccer team is off to a 4-2 start, thanks in large part to the play of Shad-I Dawkins. The sophomore has already scored 11 goals, including five in Region 2-AAAAAA games against Morrow and Luella, and added five assists through six games.

Senior Devon Dawkins also has six goals and freshman Shane Woodruff leads the team with six assists, five of which came in the win over Morrow. Head coach Alf Holst said the team’s improvement has a lot to do with the addition of two new assistant coaches - Daniel Caraway and Michael Houk.

“The soccer team this year has improved greatly since last season,” Holst said. “There have been some key changes in the program. (Caraway and Houk) have helped tremendously in uniting the team through their intensive preseason and in season training methods. This has made our team more mentally tough that they step up to challenges.”

Rockdale, which is 1-1 against region competition, continues league play when it travels to defending league champion Druid Hills Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Red Devils, who reached the second round in the Class AAAAAA state tournament a year ago, are off to a 1-4-1 start.

“On paper (Druid Hills looks) like they are struggling, but I keep telling my players to never underestimate any team,” Holst said. “If we stick to our game plan, keep our minds focus(ed) on winning, and work as a team, we should get the result we want. Our team is more positive and united than previous Rockdale teams. The players are clicking together as a one, and work with each other during matches and practices to get better and better.”

Across town, the Heritage girls rebounded from a rare rough start to the season, and from a tough start to Tuesday’s game against Cedar Shoals. The Patriots found themselves down 1-0 early on against the Athens school, but scored six unanswered goals to win 6-1 in Region 8-AAAAA play.

Cedar scored off a corner kick 90 seconds into the game before Heritage (3-2, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA) got two goals from Kennesaw State signee Mady Carter and a goal each from Kaley Wells, Faith Shelton and the first career goals for Emily Kimpling and Brennen Young. Kimpling also added a pair of assists.

“Proud of my girls for putting things together after a very poor start, but we certainly are not good enough to show up and go through the motions and expect to win, regardless of our opponent,” said Patriots coach Chad Suddeth, whose team has won its first two region games after a 1-2 start to the season.

Heritage traveled to Henry County for a non-league game against Eagle’s Landing Thursday, which ended too late for this edition. The Patriots host Habersham Central Saturday at 2:30 p.m.