The rain held off for nearly all of Rome’s Region 7-5A game against Hiram on Friday night, but the Wolves eventually opened the floodgates themselves.
A soggy day was capped off by another impressive Rome victory as the No. 6-ranked Wolves scored five touchdowns in the final quarter and fed off of an unrelenting defense to defeat Hiram 52-0 on Senior Night at Barron Stadium.
Rome, which led by just 10-0 at halftime, managed to roll up 429 yards of offense against the Hornets while holding Hiram to just 57 yards. The win all but locks the Wolves into the region’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs, which would secure them a home game for the first round.
“It was kind of enjoyable. It was close at halftime, so there was a serious approach to their play and it was just slow and painful for them in the second half. I just don’t think we gave them hardly anything,” Rome head coach John Reid said.
Hiram came in with a spotless region record and was looking to play the spoiler against Rome, but with the group-like mentality of the Wolves’ defense disrupting nearly every attempt at finding a rhythm on offense, the Hornets never got close to scoring all night.
“We had the feeling they hadn’t seen anything the likes of us in the last four or five weeks. I think from a defensive standpoint it was hard for them to overcome because we are so fast and so physical,” Reid said, adding that his players will get their reward for shutting out an opponent.
“The donuts will be coming out Monday morning. And it takes quite a few to feed these guys. And that’s always a good thing. That’s money well spent.”
Rome (7-2, 6-1 7-5A) fought and meandered its way on offense early as the Wolves worked to overcome setbacks in their running game and two penalties on second-and-long that gave Hiram first downs and extended a Hornet drive that ultimately ended in a punt.
“We gave them 30 yards of penalties on one drive, and that’s where points come from when you have those kind of things,” Reid said. “As a coach, we’re always going to be critical of mistakes. And we try to raise the kids to the level of play we expect. Sometimes we don’t always get there, but that’s why people come to watch the games.”
The momentum appeared to change on the Wolves’ second drive after halftime as first-down runs by quarterback Caleb Ellard, and running backs EJ Burks and Ahijah Blackwell sparked an eight-play, 76-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown run by Blackwell.
That lead into the fourth quarter, where Rome scored on every possession topped off with a fumble recovery by the Wolves’ Jamie Perez in the end zone with 1:30 left to play that set the final tally.
Ellard scored from a yard out to start the onslaught, while Blackwell dove into the end zone from the 5-yard line after Jordan Neal recovered a fumble by Hiram quarterback Zander May to put Rome up 31-0.
A 41-yard run by Ellard highlighted the Wolves’ next drive, which was capped off by a four-yard scamper by Burks, and Trey Lawrence took the second play of Rome’s following possession 41 yards for a touchdown. Alonzo Rodriguez was a perfect 7-of-7 for extra points on the night, and added a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Blackwell finished with 118 yards on 22 carries, while Burks had 117 yards on 18. Ellard was 6-of-7 passing for 82 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown to Jay Wise in the first quarter.
Hiram (5-3, 5-1) made an attempt to get down into scoring position on the last drive of the first half, but May’s pass downfield from the Rome 42 on fourth-and-15 was picked off by Scott Peterson with 15.8 seconds left. Ellard took a knee on the ensuing play to send the game to the half.
Rome will be on the road next Friday to take on Villa Rica for its final game of the regular season. The Wolves will then have an off week before starting the Class 5A state playoffs on Nov. 15.