DALLAS — It didn’t take Rome High’s defense long to show it had the upper hand in Friday night’s Region 7-5A contest on the road.
And when the Wolves’ offense began finding its footing, the game fully belonged to the visitors.
No. 9 Rome rolled up 446 yards of offense while holding East Paulding to just 82 — including 3 in the first half — to power its way to a 45-0 win to give the Wolves their second straight shutout.
“Early on we had some real defensive intensity, and they played really hard up front against us,” Rome High head coach John Reid said. “We had to make some adjustments. It’s not where I want it to be. I don’t know if coaches are ever satisfied with intensity, but I think it’s getting there.”
The win was the third straight victory for the Wolves since a close loss to Carrollton. Rome (5-2, 4-1 7-5A) has been on a tear since then, outscoring opponents 135-10 in its last three games.
“It’s nice to go out and play well and have a shutout,” Reid said. “It’s a lot of work being a high school football player and it’s a lot of sacrifice. Your confidence builds, and it also puts some trust in the system and the coaching staff that this is how it works.”
The matchup brought Reid to familiar surroundings having coached the Raiders from 2006 to 2011, during which he amassed a 60-15 record with the team.
The Wolves’ defense set the tone on the opening drive when Tim Jones Jr. intercepted East Paulding quarterback Skyler Melton around the Raiders’ 45-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown to give Rome High a 7-0 lead within the first three minutes of the game. The pick was the third interception of the season for Jones.
The defense kept up a steady pace throughout the game thanks to linemen Rayquan Jones and Bryant Wilkinson, who pressured the Raiders’ quarterbacks most of the night.
The Wolves’ offense had a bit of a cool start to the game, but still managed to put up some quick points on the board.
The Wolves’ first big-yard play of the game came in the second quarter when EJ Burks faked out a couple of defenders near the line of scrimmage before breaking loose for a 60-yard touchdown run that put the Wolves up 21-0 with 5:10 until halftime.
Burks finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Ahijah Blackwell finished with 166 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, with scores coming on runs of 61, 5 and 3 yards.
Burks had a 13-yard touchdown run before halftime. Rome quarterback Caleb Ellard finished 8-of-12 for 102 yards.
East Paulding (0-6, 0-4) failed to put together a decent drive until the third quarter when they escaped the Wolves’ defense for a couple of big plays to get deep into Rome territory.
Three straight incomplete passes later, which included pressure on the QB and a broken up pass both from Nick Burge, and the Raiders’ drive resulted in a turnover on downs.
The Wolves capitalized by taking the ball 80 yards back down the field and capping the drive with a 5-yard run by Blackwell — his third and final score of the night.
“The game was a perfect pace for us to work and get better,” Reid said. “It wasn’t out of hand. They have some good players, so we had to fight for every yard and find ways to get better. That was a good test for us as we move throughout the region.”
A 37-yard field by Fernando Lopez-Romero with 2:41 left in the game rounded out the scoring for Rome.
The Wolves return home to Barron Stadium next Friday and continue Region 7-5A play against Paulding County.