Rockmart wins back-to-back
♦ Jackets finish strong over Gordon Central to clinch 7-AA title heading into Model
Rockmart made their statement to the rest of Class AA football on Friday night. Even when they’re shocked, they bounce back on top after a 62-11 win over Gordon Central that started on shaky ground.
The Jackets who sat at number 2 in Class AA football statewide at press time secured the 7-AA region championship for a second year and continued perfect for the season.
It’s the first time in more than six decades the team has won a back-to-back region title.
“What an accomplishment we’ve made in this program,” Jackets head coach Biff Parson said. “Goal number one going into the season was a back-to-back region championship. We’ve checked off that first box.”
They did it despite only holding a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, with the Warriors making their mark in the first quarter, grabbing a 26-yard field goal and Isaac Dye picked up a Zabrion Whatley fumble in Rockmart territory for 32 yard touchdown, with a follow-on 2-point conversion.
It only served to slow down what was otherwise a stillhot Rockmart offense, who scored five times in the first half, two of those off Dylan Bailey passes to Chandler Cooper on a 47-yard in the first quarter, and a 24 yard grab in the second. They also scored off big runs by the trio of Whatley, Ant Lester and Markus Smith throughout the first half, and several more in the second half by Whatley, Smith and even Jai Penson.
Rockmart’s final score on the night came off of a Gordon Central kickoff return fumble lost by Ethan Watson and scooped up for a 23-yard score by Peyton Morris.
Parson said the team might have laid an egg in the first half, but showed resilience to pick back themselves right back up and get back onto track.
“That’s a credit to the teenagers,” he said. “The hardest part for us right now is that Monday through Friday. Are we going to remain focused, are we going to pay attention to detail? Are we going to practice?”
He said this past week wasn’t the greatest week of practice, but that his high hopes are that the team will remain perfect as they head into the final week of the regular season.
Coaches and fans have every reason to believe they will based on statistics alone.
Rockmart ended the night with more than 600 yards of offense, with Bailey going 7 of 10 on passing for 117 yards and 2 touchdown passes on the night.
It was the latest game where Rockmart score more than 50 against an opponent, the third time this season, and made their current tally of points scored on the season at 352 to 55 on the year.
Gordon Central put up 246 yards on offense with Clayton Hogue and Nelson Gravitt sharing duties under center. Hogue went 1 for 3 on the night for 30 yards, and Gravitt went 0 for 2 and no yards as well.
The Jackets finish going 9-0 (5-0 7-AA) into their final region game next Friday on the road against Model (2-7, 2-4 7-AA,) who lost to Coosa last Thursday after the game was moved up 30-14.
“This 2018 group has a chance to write their own legacy,” Parson said. “They have a chance to go undefeated, but we take it one game at a time…. We want to be undefeated. I hope that we come out to practice with a purpose and come out with the desire and passion to accomplish that goal as well.”
All other teams fall behind Rockmart at this point no matter the outcome. Chattooga stood at 5-1 in region play after 41-0 win over Dade County last week, followed by Pepperell at 5-1 after they shutout Armuchee 28-0. Coosa, at 3-3, has to face Gordon Central after their loss to Rockmart on the road next Friday to keep their fourth place spot in Region 7-AA and get into the playoffs this year.
If the Warriors win, it’ll be their first time in the playoffs since 2012.
Rockmart’s assured spot already has them facing the fourth place team in Region 6-AA at home. It’s a battle for second place in that area of the state between Douglass and Washington while Hapeville Charter remains perfect at 6-AA’s top spot. Business Engineering Science Tech and South Atlanta could end up battling it out for the fourth seed and a trip to the Rock.
It wasn’t all fun and games for the Yellow Jackets defense last Friday night for their final home win of the season. They still had a hard time stopping the Gordon Central run in wet conditions.
Above left: Younger players got a chance to get into the game in the second half on senior night with Javin Whatley taking up duties under center in the fourth quarter. Above right: Ant Lester showed off his skills at running back and on defense last Friday against Gordon Central. Above: Senior Markus Smith takes a handoff in the backfield from senior Dylan Bailey last Friday for the final Rockmart regular season home game of 2018.