Rockdale County’s 27-20 victory over Discovery last season was a major turning point for the Bulldogs.
The win snapped an 11-game losing streak and gave first-year head coach Jamie Baldwin his first career win. The victory has since sparked a 5-5 record for the Bulldogs in their last 10 games and will enter Friday night’s meeting with the Titans winners of three in a row, their longest such streak in five years.
With the Bulldogs (2-0) not accustomed to having a ton of success in recent years - the senior class is 8-24 dating back to their freshman season - Baldwin has made a point to keep their foot on the gas and not let up heading into Week 3.
“I told my guys today that the more successful you are, sometimes the less hungry you get,” Baldwin said. “ Discovery is not the team that you can take for granted. I understand that they are 0-2, but they’re hungry for a win. We’re 2-0, but our hunger has to stay at the same level. We have to play them as though they’re the top-ranked team in the nation.”
Baldwin’s example used was that of the Bulldogs’ 7-point victory over the Titans last season, a game he thinks they should have won by a much larger margin.
“We were winning 21-7 going into the fourth quarter and they scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to come to within one score,” Baldwin said. “That’s because our guys became complacent and were relaxed because they felt like they had the game in hand.”
The Bulldogs’ two victories to begin the 2019 season have not come without second-half drama. A fourth-quarter comeback was needed to defeat Eagle’s Landing in Week 1 while a third-quarter comeback was needed to defeat Alcovy last Friday night.
Only three points have been scored on offense by the Bulldogs in first-half action this season while 41 have been scored in second halves - 20 against Eagle’s Landing and 21 against Alcovy.
Baldwin chalked up their lack of success in first halves this season to several different things, but placed the biggest emphasis on penalties, something that has plagued the Bulldogs in both of their games to start the season.
“In the Alcovy game, we shot ourselves in the foot and had about five penalties on offense,” Badwin said. “That kind of killed some of our drives. We have to cut down on penalties to make sure that we’re executing in the right way.”
With those corrections, Baldwin thinks it is only a matter of time before the come out of the gates scoring the ball on offense.
“I feel like if we cut down on distractions during the course of the game, our offense is primed and ready to come out and score points early,” Baldwin said. “We have to do things the right way. When we don’t have all 11 guys concentrating on that same play at the same time, we’re going to find ourselves with our backs against the wall trying to fight our way out.”
On defense, the Bulldogs have held their two opponents to just three touchdowns and have intercepted four passes. The Bulldogs’ defense has yet to allow a first-half touchdown.
“They’re playing relentless football right now and that’s one of the things that I’ve always been about since I’ve been here at Rockdale,” Baldwin said. “Speed, too. I’ve always believed in speed on defense. I think the faster you are, the better you are. We’ve got some fast guys on defense. We may not be the biggest, but we’re very fast and that’s what’s made them look so good, so far.”
The Bulldogs’ defense will be tasked with slowing down a run-first Titans offense led by senior running back Terry Lockhart and wide receiver Devin Martin.
“(Martin) is a threat all the way around,” Baldwin said. “He can catch the ball and they move him around a lot at the slot receiver position and at wideout. He runs the jet and he’s very dangerous on special teams. That’s one guy that we’re really paying attention to and making sure that we have an eye on him over the course of the game.”
The Discovery offense has not scored a touchdown this season. They were shut out 28-0 against Dacula in Week 1 and 46-0 against Shiloh last Friday night.
That, however, hasn’t stopped Baldwin and his coaching staff from approaching their meeting with a lot of respect for the Titans.
“They do a good job getting after the ball,” Baldwin said. “For the most part, they look fundamentally sound, which makes us want to work and prepare even harder. Those guys try to execute to the best of their ability, so that makes them dangerous.”
With homecoming on the horizon Friday, Baldwin is hoping to watch his team execute and dominate from the opening kickoff at home on Friday night.
“We don’t want distractions to get in our way, but we also want to make sure that we cut down on penalties early in the game,” Baldwin said. “We’re going to try and set the tone early and see how Discovery is going to respond.”