Rockdale County gave the ball away early and fell behind early in a 28-14 loss to Cedar Shoals on Friday night.
The Bulldogs had four of their five turnovers in the first half, including a fumble that led to a touchdown and another that prevented a possible score.
The Bulldogs (1-2) lost the ball on three fumbles and an interception in the first 24 minutes.
Rockdale, which has just 23 of its 127 players as seniors, started eight sophomores and at time that resulted in inexperience.
“We’re going to have a little bit of that here and there,” Rockdale coach Michael Etheridge said. “It’s just a growing process. We’re just tyring to keep getting better and improve.”
The Jaguars (2-1) turned one of the Bulldogs’ miscues into seven points, and the lead, early in the second quarter.
D.J. Ardister carried the ball for the Bulldogs on first-and-10 from their own 39, when he fumbled the ball into the hands of Cedar Shoals’ Theo Tayo on the Bulldogs’ 39.
Cedar Shoals then had a 13-yard pass from Darius Jordan to Tay Bowens to move in the Bulldogs red zone. Jordan then struck again, this time on a 21-yard pass to Jamario Calhoun, who regained his balance on the left sideline, and sprinted into the endzone for a 14-7 Ceddar Shoals lead with 9:45 left in the second quarter.
Rockdale tied the game at 7-7 on Deon holder’s 9-yard run in the first quarter.
After Calhoun’s touchdown, the two teams then battled back and forth with neither gaining an advantage until penalties, which resulted in ejections for each team, put the Jaguars in poor field position. The Jaguars attempted to punt from their own 35-yard line but the snap was bad and Rockdale took over possession on the Jaguars’ 22.
Zach Powell threw a 12-yard pass to Anthony Maul to put the Bulldogs’ on the door step of the end zone, but turnovers again played a part. Powell ran the ball toward the left of his offensive line on second-and-goal from the 7-yard line, but fumbled it erasing Rockdale’s chance at a tie.
The second half continued to show mistakes would be costly for the Bulldogs. Rockdale had a bad snap on its first punt of the second half, resulting in a kick that put the Jaguars on the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line. Cedar Shoals had a 1-yard run before Rodney Willingham took a handoff and cut through the Rockdale defense for a 35-yard toudchdown with 9:45 left in the third quarter. Cedar Shoals missed the extra point for a 20-7 lead.
Rockdale answered the score with a 68-yard drive lasting 15 plays and resulting in an 11-yad touchdown pass from Zach Powell to Deon Holder. The Bulldogs seemed to be stalled on fourth-and-2 from the Cedar Shoals’ 18 yard line, but a 4-yard run by D.J. Ardister extended the drive, and enabled Rockdale to pull within 20-14 after the extra point with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs looked to be getting back into the game, before Cedar Shoals put together a drive of its own.
Cedar Shoals moved into the red zone, but looked to be stopped on third-and-nine on Rockdale’s 18, when it committed a block in the back penalty. Rockdale took the penalty pushing the ball back to third-and-22 on the 31 rather than letting it go to fourth down. Cedar Shoals took the third-down play and Darius Jordan threw a 29-yard pass to Jamario Calhoun, putting the Jaguars on the 2-yard line. Cedar Shoals punched it in on a 2-yard touchdown run by Rodney Willingham, and the Jaguars made the two-point conversion for a 28-14 lead with 10:11 left in the game.
“My thing was after (our touchdown) we gave up that long ball,” Etheridge said. “We had a little momentum going and gave it away. That’s how things have been going for us so far, we get something going our way and give it away.”
The five turnovers negated Rockdale’s 168 rushing yards and 70 passing yards.
The Bulldogs will stay closer to home for their next game, traveling to Heritage on Thursday in a game broadcast on WSBTV.
“I think if we keep working hard by midyear, we’ll hit our stride,” Etheridge said.