CONYERS, GA - In a tune-up for next week's matchup against perennial state power, Lowndes County, the Rockdale Bulldogs scored on their first seven possessions and ran roughshod through the overmatched Meadowcreek Mustangs 58-7 on a warm, late-summer night at Reid Stadium.
With the win, Rockdale improved to 3-0 on the young season. Meadowcreek fell to 0-2.
The Bulldogs were hitting on all cylinders from the opening whistle. Quarterback Kemani Pittman hit senior wide receiver Talon Bundrage for a 37-yard gain on the second play of the game. From the Mustang 15-yard line, T.J. Warren took a swing pass from Pittman and scored for a 6-0 lead with 1:16 gone in the first period. Sophomore kicker Andrew Tanner missed the extra point to keep the score 6-0.
Meadowcreek received the kickoff and immediately went backwards as the Bulldog defense swarmed all runners and receivers. The Mustangs lost five yards in three plays and had to punt.
Rockdale, which benefitted from excellent field position all night, took over on its own 47-yard line. Junior quarterback Zuri Minnifield (2-2, 32 yards, one TD) moved the Bulldogs into Mustang territory when he threw to Bundrage for a 27-yard gain on second and 10. Senior running back Devin Williams ran twice for 18 yards to the Meadowcreek two-yard line, but was stuffed for a four-yard loss on second and goal. On the next play, Minnifield tossed a beautiful fade pass to Warren (2-2, 20 yards, two TDs) in the left corner of the end zone for a 12-0 lead. The two-point conversion was good, and the Bulldogs were up 14-0 with 5:32 left in the period.
On its first play from scrimmage after the Rockdale kickoff, a Mustang receiver fumbled after the catch and the Bulldogs took over at the Meadowcreek 20. A motion penalty pushed the Bulldogs back to the 25-yard line. But that was not a problem, though, as Williams caught a swing pass from Pittman (3-3, 77 yards, two TDs), cut around left end and outran the Mustang defense to the pylon for a 20-0 lead with 4:21 left in the first period.
Meadowcreek received the ensuing kickoff and converted its only first down of the first half at the 2:55 mark of the first period. However, the Mustangs prosperity was short-lived as the Bulldogs defense stiffened and forced another three-and-out.
Rockdale's Warren took the Mustang punt 65 yard for another Bulldog touchdown. But a block in the back by the Bulldog special teams put the ball on the Meadowcreek 15 as time expired in the first period.
Two plays later, Williams scored his second touchdown of the half on a six-yard run right up the gut for a 26-0 lead. Once again, the PAT was no good.
Meadowcreek took over on its 30-yard line. But, Mustang senior quarterback Kalu Onumah threw an unfortunate ball that was picked off by Warren for a 60-yard interception for a touchdown. The PAT was missed - again - but the rout was on 32-0 after just 13:09 in the first half.
Not to be overshadowed by their offense, the Bulldogs had an answer for every Mustang attack. Defensive end Ryan Ross snuffed out a quarterback keeper on third and 10 and dropped Onumah for a seven-yard loss and another punt.
The Bulldogs took over at midfield, and on the first play it was Williams, again, for a 50-yard touchdown run to put Rockdale up 38-0 with 8:51 left in the second period. Even with liberal substitutions, Rockdale would score twice more in the period and led 51-0 heading into the locker room at halftime.
Both teams traded touchdowns as the second half was played with a running clock. Meadowcreek's lone bright spot was when Onumah scored on a three-yard run late in the fourth quarter to give the Mustangs their first points of the season.
After last week's early struggles against Salem, coach Venson Elder was pleased with his team's effort.
"Sometimes, you're going to play teams that you're better than, but you got to go out there and still perform," Elder said. "I think our kids stayed focused. They ran our offense and defense, and I think we got better even though we're the better team."
Next week's matchup against Lowndes County, ranked ninth in Georgia in all classifications, will give Elder a much better idea of how good the Bulldogs are.
"We're going down to Lowndes next week. (It's) probably the biggest game in Rockdale County history - going down there and playing a team of that caliber," Elder said. "I think we can still go down there and come back with a victory. But, we have to play a perfect game."
That, they will.