The Rockdale Bulldogs opened the 2013 season with a defensive bang, toppling county rival Salem 20-0 at Reid Stadium on Friday, Aug. 30.
The Bulldogs (1-0) limited the Seminoles (0-1) to just four rushing yards in the second half, sacking Salem quarterback Licash Lackey four times over the last two periods. Lackey also threw a pair of interceptions in the second half to Rockdale's T.J. Warren.
Rockdale coach Venson Elder said his team's speed played a big role in the rivalry win.
"We worked on our team speed this summer on defense," Elder said. "It helped tremendously tonight. We ran hard all summer and they are bigger and stronger now. They ran to the football tonight."
The Bulldogs opened the game's scoring on their second drive of the night, scoring off a Seminole turnover. After forcing a three-and-out, Salem muffed Rockdale's punt deep in their own territory, setting Rockdale up nicely on Salem's 23-yard line.
The Bulldogs scored just one play later, finding the endzone on a 23-yard quarterback keeper up the middle of the field from Zuri Minnifield. Minnifield broke through the original line of scrimmage, bouncing off a group of tacklers for the score. Devon Dawkins added the extra point for Rockdale, giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 advantage with 3:50 left in the first half.
Salem looked poised to tie the score early in the second quarter after Rockdale gambled on a fourth down at mid-field and came up short, but the Bulldogs defense had an answer for Lackey. Lackey led the drive with two consecutive runs for 20 combined yards to put the Seminoles at Rockdale's 29-yard line. However, he was picked off three plays later by the Rockdale's Shakym Peters, ending the Seminoles' threat.
Rockdale made the turnover count on its next possession, using six plays to drive 69 yards for the score. The scoring drive was highlighted by a 21-yard run by Warren to get the Bulldogs into the Seminoles' red zone. Minnifield finished the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper, pushing the score to 14-0 with 6:08 to go in the first half after a Dawkins extra point.
The teams remained scoreless after halftime until Rockdale put an exclamation mark on the game on its final drive. With 29 seconds left in the game, Minnifield found wideout Akwesi Mintah on a 39-yard fade route down the right sideline, closing the game's scoring. Rockdale missed the extra point, ending the contest 20-0 in favor of the Bulldogs.
"We never got in a rhythm and a lot of that was because that team (Rockdale) was extremely athletic in the box," Salem coach John Starr said. "I don't care who they are playing against, they're athletic. It was tough for us to match up with that."
Minnifield finished the game 6 of 11 for 117 yards through the air, while adding 53 yards rushing on eight carries.
Warren added 64 yards on the ground for the Bulldogs.
Lackey ended the game with 50 yards on 5 of 13 passing.
Robbie Cyrus finished the contest with 39 yards rushing for Salem.
Rockdale returns to action next week on the road against Heritage, while Salem hosts Wesleyan at home.