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Rockdale clinches playoff berth
Willie Smith runs from a Druid Hills defender as Rockdale clinches a playoff berth Friday. - photo by Darrell Everidge

Rockdale football has made its way back toward success.

After a more than disappointing 2011 season, which saw the Bulldogs win just one game, and a tumultuous offseason that saw them part ways with one coach and fire another due to ethics violations, Rockdale earned a playoff berth on Friday night.

Snapping a two-game losing streak in the process, Rockdale (3-7, 3-3 Region 2-AAAAAA) defeated Druid Hills 18-14 to secure a fourth seed in this coming Friday’s postseason.

Rockdale’s defense provided the path into the playoffs, coming up with a key turnover and shutting down Druid Hills late.

“The defense did a good job; they caught us when we were playing zone and they caught us again when they scored their second touchdown,” said Bulldogs coach Venson Elder. “I’m proud of my defensive ends; they stepped up along with our linebackers.” 

After allowing another touchdown with 15.4 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs found themselves playing catch up yet again. And once again, it was the Bulldogs’ tenacious defense that stepped up and stood tall in the face of adversity. 

With 4:36 left in the fourth, the Bulldogs’ defense came up with a huge fumble recovery that lit a fire under both the crowd and the offense as well. 

With their season on the line, the Bulldogs managed to find the end zone with just 1:54 left in the game to take the lead. 

On the next set of Red Devil downs, it was the Bulldogs’ strong safety Devante Walters who iced the game, as he sacked the opposing quarter back on fourth down with just 1:15 left in the game. 

“Tonight was a huge game for not just the team but the seniors as well since this is their last game on this field,” said Elder. “They deserved to go out with a win. Even though I’ve only had them for one season, we put a lot of pressure on those guys; they all came up huge tonight.” 

The Bulldogs’ offense found its way onto the scoreboard first, with 5:10 left in the first quarter, thanks to Willie Smith. The night definitely belonged to the Bulldogs, both offensively and defensively, as they played with a sense of urgency throughout. 

Finding a flaw in the Bulldogs’ strong defense Friday were the Red Devils, reaching the end zone with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Ever more resilient was the Bulldogs’ defense, which was able to regain the momentum from the Red Devils for the remainder of the first half.

Starting the second half after a touchdown in the final minutes of the second quarter by junior receiver Anthony Maul, the Bulldogs hit the field focused, with their sights set on lengthening their season. 

Rockdale will be the No. 4 seed out of Region 2-AAAAAA with Alcovy moving to third, thanks to the Red Devils’ loss, Newton the No. 2 and Lovejoy No. 1

“We play one more week, maybe more,” said Elder. “You never know when it comes to playoff time.”