There was no short supply of big hits and powerful runs in the battle for sole possession of first place in Region 7-AA on Friday night in Lindale. And the advantage was on Rockmart’s side in the end.
A fast and bruising Yellow Jacket squad took control early in its game against Pepperell at Dragon Stadium and was lifted by the performance of Markus Smith to a 40-10 win, giving No. 3-ranked Rockmart its seventh straight win to remain undefeated.
Smith finished with 11 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the game, which saw Rockmart take a 34-0 lead in the second quarter. The Jackets finished with 379 yards of offense, 307 of which came on the ground.
“Our team was tested tonight for the first time in a long time. Pepperell’s got a good team and they came out fighting,” Rockmart head coach Biff Parson said. “But our kids are resilient. These kids are on a mission, and right now nothing is overwhelming them.”
The victory puts the Jackets (7-0, 4-0 7-AA) in the driver’s seat for a possible repeat as region champions with three games left in the regular season.
Pepperell (4-3, 3-1) finished with 240 yards of offense, equally divided between rushing and passing. Quarterback Gage Moses was 9 of 15 passing for 119 yards and was held out of the first quarter.
The Dragons’ best drive of the night came at the start of the second half when Moses and Camron Miles connected through the air three times — twice converting on third down — to get Pepperell inside Rockmart’s 10-yard line. Jimmy Powell ran the ball into the end zone from 5 yards out for the Dragons’ lone touchdown.
“Our defense was put in some tough positions tonight and they bowed their necks and gave up only 10 points,” Parson said.
Smith scored on runs of 28, 70 and 1 yards, the last being set up by a 40-yard run by Javin Whatley midway through the third quarter. Zabrion Whatley capped the Jackets’ opening drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and Noah Hughes made his first of four extra points.
Up 14-0 heading into the second quarter, Rockmart added to its lead on the first play of the period as a punt by Pepperell’s Payton Rhoades was blocked deep in his own territory and scooped up by Mekhi Floyd, who ran it in for a touchdown.
Kieron Roberts ended the Dragons’ next play after recovering a fumble and getting it to the Pepperell 31. Juke Boozer caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Bailey three plays later.
Both Rockmart and Pepperell are off next week and will return to action on Oct. 19 with the Jackets traveling to Coosa and the Dragons hosting Dade County.