CONYERS — Only a 30-minute lighting delay midway through the fourth quarter could keep Rockdale County’s Noah McGlockling in check Friday night against rival Heritage.
With both offensive touchdowns for the Bulldogs and a second quarter interception on defense, McGlockling gave the hosts enough offense to help secure a 16-0 shutout victory over the Patriots after play was called with 8:41 remaining in the game.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 4-0 on the season, the best start in program history since 1987. The win also marked the Bulldogs' first victory over the Patriots since 2015.
"It's a great goal to reach," Rockdale County head coach Jamie Baldwin said. "I'm especially excited for those seniors. I've been here as long as they have and we were 0-3 the last three years against Heritage. I wanted them to get that experience of getting that victory against Heritage before they graduated. I'm very happy for my seniors."
The Bulldogs out-gained the Patriots 158-77 in total yards on the night. McGlockling was the leading ball carrier for the Bulldogs, who finished with 41 yards on four carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. The Bulldogs finished with seven total first downs to Heritage’s four.
"Coach (Corey) Johnson had a great scheme to defend our run," Baldwin said. "We got outside and used our speed. Noah is one of our fastest guys on the team, so we knew that if we could create that 1-on-1 matchup with he and their outside backer that he was going to win that matchup every single time. He did a great job stepping up for us."
Offense was hard to come by for either team in the opening 10 minutes of the first quarter. Three punts apiece by the host Bulldogs and road Patriots highlighted the action in which both sides were flagged on numerous occasions.
Looking to strike first, the Bulldog defense forced its third punt of the night and set up shop from the Patriot 22-yard line. On second-and-7, McGlockling caught a toss from quarterback Chandler Peters and easily scored from right to left. The senior went untouched into the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a 6-0 advantage with 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.
McGlocking credited both his coaching staff and the Bulldogs' stout offensive line for helping create his running lanes on the night.
"The whole week, the coaching staff was telling us to hit the outside, stay flat and it is going to be there," McGlockling said. "They told me that I'm faster than them and that I'll out-run everybody and that's what happened."
Another quick stop forced by the Bulldog defense gave the home team another fresh set of downs inside Patriot territory, but this time, the home team failed to score. Instead, a fumbled exchange between Peters and Jaionte McMillan resulted in a recovery by the Patriots near midfield.
Two more punts, one from each team, succeeded the Bulldogs turnover before the home sideline had an opportunity to cheer again. With the Patriots holding possession at their own 20-yard line on second-and-9, Derrick Thomas’s pass was intercepted by McGlocking, who caught the pass near midfield before being tackled at the Patriot 30.
McGlockling's interception marked his third of the season and second in as many weeks.
"I was just sitting in the middle waiting for the quarterback to make a decision and he made the wrong decision," McGlockling said.
Facing a fourth-and-12 from the Patriot 32-yard line after three nice stops by the Heritage defense, the Bulldogs elected to go for it. Trusting the passing game, Peters connected with Curtis Jones down the seem for 20 yards down to the Patriot 12-yard line, giving the hosts a fresh set of downs.
Three plays later on third-and-8, McGlocking scored again, this time on a toss from left to right. After working his way outside, the senior cut back inside and dove into the end zone for the touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead with 3:34 remaining in the first half.
"After the first (touchdown), they knew what was coming," McGlockling said. "It felt great. I've been waiting on this since I came to high school. I played defense the first three years, so to finally get a taste of offense just feels great."
The only scoring in the second half was a 21-yard field goal for the Bulldogs off the foot of Cole Nangle with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter. The Bulldogs’ defense forced two turnovers in the second half. The first, a fumble recovery from Kaleb Baldwin and the second, a turnover on downs forced with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs' defense, which had allowed only five touchdowns heading into Friday night's matchup, pitched their first shutout since 2014 and held the Patriots to 0-of-9 on third down.
"I'm a defensive guy and I believe that defense wins ball games," Baldwin said. "For the last four weeks, defense on this team has stepped up and has done some great things. They did a great job defending third down tonight. Everyone had their individual job to do and they did it tonight."
For Peters, who took over the starting quarterback job as a senior in 2019, was happy to be apart of the historic season the Bulldogs are currently in the midst of.
"It's really special," Peters said. "We're just trying to bring the program back up to where it was. We're just trying to keep progressing every week."
Johnson offered his congratulations to the Bulldogs and said after the loss that a lot of work has to be done in order for them to get where they need to be this season.
"That bunch beat us up real good," Johnson said. "They were physical. They played hard. Coach (Baldwin) has those guys playing hard. This is the first time that they've been 4-0 since the 80s and that's big."
Our take is, we just have to get better. There's no way around it. We have to score points. Until we can get our offense to catch up with our defense, that's what we'll have to do. We have a lot of work to do. As good as we think we can possibly be, we're still nowhere close to it yet."
ROCKDALE COUNTY 16, HERITAGE 0
Heritage 0 0 0 0 0
Rockdale 6 7 3 0 16
Rockdale County: Noah McGlockling 19 run (Kick missed), 1:37
Rockdale County: McGlockling 10 run (kick good), 3:34
Rockdale County: Cole Nangle 22 FG, 6:49