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Gladiators send Bulldogs packing

The rebuilding year for Rockdale continued Friday night as the Bulldogs were handed their eighth straight loss, 44-0 to Clarke Central, in their final home game of the season.

The Bulldogs (1-8) opened the season with a 17-13 win over Winder-Barrow, but have since given up no fewer than 22 points and have been shutout three times.

Friday was no exception as Rockdale gave up 376 yards and fumbled the ball seven times, turning it over four.

Clarke Central (8-1) struggled some on offense early, continuing to go to its star running back Qenshaun Watson. The senior running back carried the ball 13 times in the first quarter, including a 12-yard run for the Gladiators' first touchdown with 5:57 into the game.
Watson finished with two touchdowns - adding a 1-yard score late in the second quarter - and 103 yards on 20 carries.

"(Watson has) played all year, where every game you look at on their film he broke a big run," Rockdale coach Michael Etheridge said. "He didn't break anything against us."

Watson's longest run was for 20 yards early in the game but the Gladiators got help from other places moving the ball.

One of those hands lending assistance was quarterback Cameron Johnson, who had 84 yards and a touchdown on 5 of 12 passing.

Johnson's favorite target was Torey Gartrell, who finished with 56 yards on three catches. Gartrell also provided the Gladiators with their second touchdown of the game on a 16-yard pass from Johnson for a 17-0 lead with 2:54 left in the second quarter.

Noah Welch, who had three field goals, kicked a 38-yarder before Gartrell's TD.

Welch's other kicks were for 37 yards to make it 41-0 and 38 yards for the final margin during the third quarter.

The Gladiators' also got help from good field position.
Rockdale reached Clarke Central territory just one time, and that came after a 25-yard run by James Baker.
The Bulldogs also committed three turnovers that led to Clarke Central points.

The first came after Rockdale fumbled it on its own 27. The Gladiators then ran four plays, the final one going for Watson's 1-yard score, making it 24-0 at halftime.
In the second half, things didn't get any better for Rockdale.

Clarke Central took the opening drive 65 yards and scored on Jalani Payne's 15-yard run.

On the ensuing possession, Rockdale fumbled again, this time on its own 15. Payne took the second handoff after the Bulldogs' turnover 15 yards into the end zone for a 38-0 lead with 7:49 left in the third quarter.

Payne finished with two touchdowns and 52 yards on five carries.

"I know we gave up some points, but I thought the first half our defense played lights out, except for the last five minutes," Etheridge said.

Despite the lopsided loss, Etheridge praised the Bulldogs' effort and is looking forward to the future Rockdale is building.

"It looks good for next year," Etheridge said. "We're just trying to build and keep getting better. I'm proud of effort our kids had."

Rockdale will look to put an end to its losing streak when it travels to Habersham Central in the season finale on Friday.

"We usually play pretty good on the road against Habersham," Etheridge said. "We go half way stop at Jackson County, where I used to be coach up there, and stop to have a little picnic and walk-through. We kind of make a big event out of it."