CONYERS – Darnell Stephens started and capped the scoring for Rockdale on Friday night. As a result, the Bulldogs are off to their best start in a half-decade.
Stephens interception return for a touchdown sealed a 22-14 Rockdale win over Discovery at Reid Stadium, giving the Bulldogs their first 3-0 start since 2014.
With the Titans trailing 15-14 and under a minute to play, quarterback J.J. Hawkins threw the third of his four interceptions on the evening, which Stephens returned un-touched 21 yards for the final points of the night.
The visitors from Lawrenceville, who were shut out in their first two contests of the season, snapped their scoreless streak with a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, but were held to just 44 total yards in the second half by a stingy Rockdale defense.
"We made some adjustments at halftime to put us in a better situation, put some quicker guys on the field, and it turned out in our favor so we kind of stuck with that," said Rockdale second-year coach Jamie Baldwin, whose team equaled its win total from his first season on the job.
Stephens had helped give Rockdale the lead for good midway through the second quarter. On second-and-long, quarterback Chandler Peters found Stephens wide open streaking down the left sideline and Stephens did the rest, racing past the Discovery secondary for a 68-yard touchdown.
Rockdale had the extra point blocked, but Discovery was flagged for running into the kicker. The hosts took advantage, getting a Peters-to-Darren Stephens two-point conversion for an 8-7 lead at the 6:20 mark of the quarter.
The Bulldogs picked up a quick three-and-out on defense and went right back to work offensively. Jaionte McMillian had a pair of five-yard runs on third-and-short, the last of which was a scoring run that made it 15-7 with just over a minute left in the half.
Devin Martin took control of the next drive. The Discovery junior grabbed the ensuing kick off and raced up the field for 53 yards, then on the first play from scrimmage caught a pass from Terry Lockhart and scored from 32 yards to pull the Titans to within 15-14 at halftime.
"On (Martin's) touchdown we gave up, it was a blown coverage," said Baldwin. "We made the adjustments later on so that didn't happen anymore."
Rockdale held that slim margin through four second-half possessions, one of which ended in a lost fumble, and four Discovery drives, three of which ended with punts.
It was Hawkins defensive work that helped Discovery grab the first lead of the night. He recovered a Connor Mack fumble late in the opening quarter at the Rockdale 37, and an 11-play drive commenced with Hawkins powering his way into the end zone for a seven-yard TD that gave the Titans their first points of the season and a 7-0 cushion.
The opening quarter saw both teams squander chances. Rockdale had a 13-play drive that took up seven minutes of the game’s first possession, but which stalled at the Discovery 18.
On the following possession, the Titans were moving the ball before Lockhart was pressured and threw up a jump ball that was intercepted by Noah McGlockling.
ROCKDALE 22, DISCOVERY 14
DHS 0 14 0 0 14
RCHS 0 15 0 7 22
DISCOVERY: J.J. Hawkins 7 run (Jay Santos kick) 7:34
ROCKDALE: Darnell Stephens 68 pass from Chandler Peters (Darren
Stephens pass from Peters) 6:20
ROCKDALE: Jaionte McMillian 5 run (Cole Nangle kick) 1:06
DISCOVERY: Devin Martin 32 pass from Terry Lockhart (Edwardo Vargas kick) :49
ROCKDALE: Stephens 21 interception return (Nangle kick) :40