To open the season Rockdale had trouble not only winning, but finding that spark to keep it in football games.
Friday night, just two games removed from its first win in 14 tries, Rockdale defeated Luella 21-20 in come-from behind fashion.
Trailing 20-13, Rockdale's Zuri Minifield found Targee Steele 40 yards down field on a fourth-and-10 play to set up a big situation for the young Bulldogs. On the 5-yard line, Kentavious Preston ran up the middle to pull the Bulldogs within one with 1:30 remaining.
Rockdale coach Venson Elder then called on Preston again, this time for the two point conversion. Preston ran it up the middle out of the Bulldogs' heavy package, spun off a a tackler and plowed into the end zone for the victory.
The Bulldogs (2-5, 2-1 Region 2-AAAAAA) entered halftime trailing 20-7 before the coaches tried to will them into a frenzy. After giving their speeches, the Rockdale coaches handed things over to the players, and according to Elder that's where things began to turn around.
"When we went in at halftime all the coaches gave their schpeel of what went wrong it he first half, and then we let them talk among themselves in the locker room," Elder said. "They came out and said, ‘Coach we're going to win this.
"We did something that we've been waiting for those kids to do for all season. They finally said that they were tired of giving up tired of losing and they fought back."
After scoring their only touchdown of the first half, on a pass from Minifield to Steele, the Preston scored the Bulldogs' only first-half touchdown, Rockdale brought it within six, 20-13 (the extra point failed) on another pass from Minifield to Steele.
Both players showed maturity beyond their freshman years, with Minifield returning from a game-ending tackle a week ago at Lovejoy and Steele adjusting on the fly from a slant to an out route for the critical play at the end of the game.
Along with the growth from individual players, Rockdale is also growing as a team lowering its turnovers, helping to lead to two region wins.
In the season opener, Rockdale turned it over six times, and against Luella, had just one, an interception in the end zone.
"We're still work in progress, and they're working on it," Elder said. "The turnover ratio from the beginning of the season to now is night and day."
Rockdale travels to Newton High Friday for what is another region game, but also a renewal of a rivalry between what used to be Rockdale County High and Newton County High with the innagural County Line Classic. The winner will receive a trophy that will be awarded to the victor each year.