Special teams is not taken lightly by the Rome High football team. It’s seen as a major part of its game plan throughout the week.
And when the Wolves were feeling a little unlike themselves against Cedar Shoals on Friday night, it was their special teams which made a pair of game-changing plays and gave Rome the boost it needed to defeat the Jaguars 63-13.
The first round victory at Barron Stadium secures the Wolves a spot in the Class 5A round of 16 next week when they will host the winner of tonight’s game between Banneker and Southwest Dekalb.
“The thing that I’ve been saying all along is be thankful to get to the final 16,” Rome head coach John Reid said. “I think last year the Wolf Nation and everybody was just excited to win a playoff game and move on. We’ve got to get back to that. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to win one at a time.”
Jamious Griffin had 106 yards on 17 carries and four touchdowns for the Wolves, while quarterback Knox Kadum ran for 53 yards and two touchdowns to go with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jevard Williams late in the third quarter that made it 56-13 and put the game well in the hand.
The Jaguars (6-5) got the ball to start the second half and Rome’s Marquis Glanton intercepted the ball on the third play from scrimmage, taking it back to the 10. Kadum then ran it in form 3 yards out two plays later.
Kicker Emanuel Gonzalez, who was 9-for-9 on the night, made the extra point to put Rome up 35-13.
A fumble by Cedar Shoals on the ensuing deep kickoff by Alonzo Rodriguez was recovered by Rome’s Trai Hodges at the Jaguar 7-yard line. Griffin covered the remaining distance on the next play to reach the end zone for the third time of the night.
Empowered by the fresh 29-point lead, the Wolves defense swarmed Cedar Shoals on the next possession and forced the visitors to punt on fourth-and-15. That’s when Denorris Jackson zoomed in to block the punt, and Quenterrious Kennemore fell on it at the 25.
Three plays later, and Griffin took the right edge around and in for a 6-yard touchdown run with 6:53 left in the quarter.
“Special teams used to be a thing where you didn’t want to be on them, but our kids really take their role to heart and they know that’s a big team play,” Reid said. “We had three turnovers in a row. That’s a lot for a team to overcome. That was a difference-maker.”
Rome (11-0) held a 28-13 lead at halftime, but Cedar Shoals had exposed the home team in the first half that left the mood tense as the Wolves headed to the locker room.
A fake punt allowed the Jaguars to keep their first drive alive and score on a 20-yard pass on the very next play. Later, in the second quarter, Kadum had a pass intercepted on the first play of a drive. Rome’s defense was able to hold Cedar Shoals to a field goal twice in the period.
“They sprinted out, they ran some plays out of different formations that were hard to get adjusted to early. And we made some mistakes,” Reid said. “I think they’ll understand that it’s playoff football. I could feel the momentum (shift), and I think it’s good for our kids to feel it. It went back and forth for a while.”