CONYERS -- The Rockdale rushing tandem of Connor Mack and Jaionte McMillan gave it everything they had and then some for the Bulldogs to come out as victors against the Alcovy Tigers last Friday night.
Second-year head coach Jamie Baldwin tabbed Mack as the Bulldogs’ starter at running back position, but the junior would also be splitting the carries with Mcmillan, a senior who also plays safety for the Bulldogs.
Not only were Mack and McMillan great, but they accounted for 209 yards on the ground combined for the Bulldogs. Mack finished his night with 22 carries for 138 yards rushing, his second 100-yard rushing game in a row and scored one touchdown in the second half. McMillan contributed in a big way, too with some crucial conversions in the second half and 77 yards on 10 carries for the night.
With the rushing offense not picking up as much in the first half, the Bulldogs’ rushing tandem came out on fire for the second half with Mack accounting for 107 yards and McMillan accounting for 46 yards.
What was different in the second half that had the running game being so effective?
“Just motivation,” McMillan said. “We never dropped our heads and just kept playing.”
He also added that coach Baldwin gave the team a, “pep talk” during halftime and they began to, “hit their keys” afterwards.
Mcmillan also felt good with the role he played on the offense on Friday night.
“My line, I give it all up to them,” McMillan said. “The big boys put the work in every day in practice and I just give it all up to them.”
McMillan wasn’t lying either when it came to this offensive line. They helped both running backs with their rushing totals and helped quarterback, Chandler Peters rush for two touchdowns in the second half. The vetern O-line gave the run game a huge boost by opening lanes for them and giving them a chance to hit their holes.
As for Mack, he agreed with McMillan that the offensive line was a big factor into the team’s rushing success.
“It is always the offensive line, I could not do anything without them,” Mack said. “I just get the ball and make the play and they put people in the position they need to be for me to make those plays, I give all the glory to them.”
As for coach Baldwin, he was just happy that the team was able to pull this win out after their slow first half on offense. The Bulldogs entered halftime in a scoreless tie.
“I was telling my guys earlier this week about what we were going to do when our back is against the wall,” Baldwin said. “But for some reason, our guys always step up when our backs are against the wall.”
He also talked about the muffed punt from his son, Kaleb Baldwin, that the Bulldogs had in the second half, in which, he believes that a different team on the offensive side of the ball showed up.
“When our back is against the wall, we go forward,” Baldwin said.
Despite the offense getting off to a slow start rushing the ball, coach Baldwin knew that his team could not quite get right in the first half and needed a few adjustments.
“We had some discrepancies on the field and I just told the guys to focus on what we got going on,” Baldwin said. “They just came out with a different attitude and the offensive coordinator did a great job making those adjustments.”
As for Mack, coach Baldwin believes in his decision to make him the starting running back after his second straight 100-yard rushing game.
“He is a special kid, he is a special kid,” Baldwin said. “Connor is going to be a special back, he is only an 11th grader.”
Coach Baldwin also accredited Mack’s work on the field to being consistent in the weight room every day the team lifts weights. Baldwin also believes that Mack and McMillan are a really great duo.
“I’m so pleased at what he and Jaionte did and the camaraderie they have,” Baldwin said. “They compliment each other well and when one is not running well, the other one is.”
Baldwin also said that teams may see both of them in the backfield at the same time so teams may need to prepare for this rushing duo to do numbers later down the road.