ROCKMART — The Rockmart Yellow Jackets moved onto the next round of the Class AA playoffs with a 24-7 win over Temple, and will get to stay at home as they continue their perfect-season run.
The win came at a cost for No. 1 Rockmart as junior quarterback Javin Whatley exited the game in the second quarter after suffering an apparent knee injury.
Whatley was replaced temporarily by Juke Boozer, then by Paine Culver in the second half, who got the offense rolling again by the fourth quarter. Whether Whatley will be back under center was still in question as Rockmart head coach Biff Parson said he would be evaluated over the weekend.
“We survived,” Parson said. “You could tell that with him going out, it took a lot of our breath. We talked about it in the locker room, and when one of our leaders goes down, we get to see the true character of our team.”
Rockmart put up two touchdowns on the ground early off clock-eating drives as Patrick Gardner capped a series from 2 yards out, which was followed by Whatley scoring on a 1-yard keeper to put the Jackets up 14-0 heading into the second quarter.
Temple put points on the board in the second quarter, capping a drive with a 3-yard touchdown, though the Jackets defense came up big before halftime twice to keep the lead.
Rockmart’s defense proved pivotal as the offense came up short in the third quarter, keeping the Tigers out of the end zone twice on big fourth-down plays, including a sack of quarterback Scooter Tanner for a 15-yard loss.
“Our backs were against the wall, and our defense played lights out,” Parson said. “Those two big defensive stands — fourth and goal at inches — hats off to those guys for playing hard and finishing the drill.”
Culver came up big on a third-down play deep in Rockmart territory to find Mehki Floyd on a 35-yard pass and later found Boozer for a 34-yard gain. Cooper Yanzetich finished the drive with a 25-yard field goal.
The Jackets put up 413 yards of offense on the night, mostly off of the efforts of Rockmart’s running backs. Temple’s offense only put up 232 yards of total offense on the night.
The Yellow Jackets will host Brooks County next Friday after the Trojans took a 42-14 win over Washington County to open the playoffs.
“All I know is that we’re at the Rock one more time, and we’ll be ready for it,” Parson said.