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FOOTBALL: Dominant defensive performance advances Rome to quarterfinals

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It took just more than a quarter Friday night for Rome to get a firm grasp on what Southwest DeKalb thought it could succeed with on offense.

Then the Wolves made their opponents pay for it again, and again, and again … and again.

In a dominant display, Rome intercepted Southwest DeKalb quarterback Justin Tomlin five times in the second quarter, four of which led to touchdowns, in a 56-0 win in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs at Barron Stadium.

The victory is the Wolves’ fifth shutout of the season and extends their winning streak to 24 games as they head into the quarterfinals next week where they will face Starr’s Mill on the road.

Rome’s Quenterrious Kennemore had two interceptions, Marquis Glanton had another — his second in as many games — while Trai Hodges and Adam Anderson each ran back interceptions for touchdowns.

“They couldn’t run the ball, and I don’t think they came in with that as a plan,” Rome head coach John Reid said. “Our plan was to rush fast on the outside and sit down to not let (Tomlin) out then let our other guys beat him inside. I don’t think he’s seen that kind of rush inside so he kind of panicked and threw the ball high.”

It led to a very light night for the Wolves’ offense, which started four of its six drives in the first half on Southwest DeKalb’s side of the field. Still, the unit showed its resiliency by going 4 for 4 on third-down conversions during that time.

Quarterback Knox Kadum was 5-of-6 passing for 51 yards and a touchdown while adding 53 yards and another touchdown on two carries. Jamious Griffin scored twice and ran for 50 yards on 13 carries. Xavier Roberts-Donaldson had a touchdown catch and a touchdown run.

“You just never know how it’s going to happen,” Reid said, referring to the variety of ways Rome’s offense can score. “I think right now we’re getting a little better at all the aspects kind of working off each other. I think Knox had some timely runs and kept drives going with some good solid passes.”

While Tomlin got the visiting Panthers moving some with quick passes early, his window of opportunity shut quickly. He completed 16-of-27 for 152 yards passing. And there were the five interceptions.

“I know the way teams kind of refuse to run the ball on us, so they’re going to throw it,” Rome defensive coordinator Wayne Groves said. “Our DBs did a good job staying over the top, working back on balls and making plays. It’s a tribute to them. They did what they’re supposed to do.”

Rome (12-0) already held a 21-0 lead when Kennemore picked off a Tomlin pass on Southwest DeKalb’s second play of the second quarter and returned it to the 18. Griffin ran it in two plays later on a 4-yard carry with 8:36 left in the half.

Southwest DeKalb (8-4) had its next drive interrupted by Glanton’s interception, which set up Kadum to run for a 25-yard touchdown on the very next play. It was Hodges’ turn next as he grabbed a fourth-and-1 pass from Tomlin at midfield and brought it all the way back to the end zone with 2:55 left.

Anderson then got his shot three plays into the Panthers’ next possession as the 6-foot-5 Georgia commit jumped up to pick off a screen pass at the 42 and took off for a touchdown of his own.

Since Rome and Starr’s Mill are No. 1 seeds out of their respective regions, the location of next Friday’s game was decided by GHSA universal coin toss. The toss for the quarterfinals landed on tails, meaning the teams on the lower part of the bracket host in the event of similar-seeded teams.