For the final matchup of Conyers teams this season, the Rockdale at Salem game was everything a cross-town rivalry should be - in the first half.
Both teams traded scores and neither one was pulling away. However, after halftime, the Salem Seminoles went back to the basics and pulled out a 27-14 win on homecoming Friday night.
Salem (4-2) got on the scoreboard first as Damion Gordon threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo McWilliams, after a big play moved the Salem Seminoles down field. Damion Gordon found Che' Darius Robinson for a 31-yard gain on Salem's opening offensive play.
The Salem Seminoles, however, missed the extra point, foreshadowing special teams' problems. Those problems proved costly on their next drive, as the Salem Seminoles chose to go for it on fourth-and-5 from their own 36 rather than punt.
The fourth-down pass sailed incomplete and Rockdale (1-5) took over on the Salem 36-yard line. After big plays of an 11-yard run by Deon Holder and a 7-yard run by James Baker, Rockdale took a 7-6 lead on D.J. Ardister's 7-yard TD run with 8:42 to play in the second quarter after the extra point.
On the ensuing drive, Salem brought it to the 50-yard line but the drive was stalled after a 10-yard holding penalty, and it had to punt from the 38.
The Salem Seminoles then stole back the momentum as Licash Lackey intercepted Zach Powell's pass at the Rockdale 34-yard line. Salem then ran three plays, with the final one being a 14-yard touchdown run by Antone Lenard with 1:56 to play in the half.
"I felt like we came out a little bit lethargic and a tad bit cocky," Salem coach John Starr said. "At halftime, we felt like we should go back out there and play some basic football."
Salem did just that after it received the opening kickoff. Salem marched 65 yards on the first drive of the half, and finished it with a 5-yard touchdown run by Damion Gordon.
The Salem Seminoles, who had 83 yards on 18 carries in the first half, ran for 125 on the same number in the second. Salem finished with 261 total yards of offense, while holding Rockdale to 108, including just 5 yards passing.
The Salem ground attack was spread out with Robinson rushing for 49 yards on five carries, Gordon for 40 yards on four carries and Lenard for 32 yards on four carries, including two touchdowns. His second came on a 14-yard run with 3:28 left in the third quarter after another Salem interception, this time by Eric Crawford.
"He's starting to come around a little bit," said Starr of Lenard. "He's been plagued with injuries for over a year now, and he starting to look like he's getting it back."
With Salem holding the Bulldogs' offense in check, the referees seemed to be holding the Salem Seminoles'. Salem was flagged 13 times for 107 yards, and Rockdale five times for 40 yards.
The Salem Seminoles drew their biggest penalty of the game, which was offset by Rockdale on a skirmish with 805 left in the game. The interaction led to three players being ejected.
"We've been preaching team, team, team since I've been here, and when you do things like that, that's selfish," Starr said. "That kind of was disappointing.
"I'm real pleased that our guys played hard but they have to understand it's bigger than all of us. It's not about me or individual players, it's about Salem football."
Salem football has now won three straight games, its longest streak since 2009. Rockdale is currently on a five-game losing skid, its longest since 2007.
Rockdale will host Apalachee Friday and Salem hosts Clarke Central.