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PREP FOOTBALL: Rome stays on point with big win over Carrollton

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For the third time in six weeks, one of the best teams in the state entered Barron Stadium looking to dethrone the defending state champs. And for the third time, that opponent left Barron still trying to figure out how to stop Rome’s offense.

The No. 1-ranked Rome Wolves forced two turnovers and had no trouble running or passing the ball as they beat Carrollton 45-24 in a crucial Region 7-5A battle Friday night. The win makes the Wolves 5-0 for the first time since 2004 and puts them alone atop the region.

“We really needed the offense to come out and make some plays, and they go out there with a couple two-play drives for touchdowns,” Rome head coach John Reid said. “I thought the offensive staff had a tremendous gameplan, the way they mixed the plays up. To put 45 points up against a quality team is incredible.”

Quarterback Knox Kadum finished with 233 total yards and three touchdowns, while receiver Xavier Roberts-Donaldson had four catches for 136 receiving yards and a touchdown.

On the ground, Jamious Griffin had 106 rushing yards and a touchdown and Jalynn Sykes rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

After leading 21-10 in the first half, the Wolves (5-0, 3-0 7-5A) began the second half with a 56-yard touchdown run from Sykes to go up 18 early in the third.

Carrollton quarterback Mark Wright led a touchdown drive and two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 10 points. It took Rome only three plays to answer with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Roberts-Donaldson, making it 35-18.

Rome defensive end Jamarcus Chatman forced a fumble on Wright the next drive, and Rome scored on its next two drives to seal the game.

“Our big plays come from preparation. We practice hard every week,” Sykes said. “We practice those big plays every day, just put constant work into every play.”

Rome’s defense made the first play of the game, as cornerback Trai Hodges intercepted a pass on the first play from scrimmage. Kadum scored on a 21-yard run three plays later to go up 7-0, a lead Rome didn’t relinquish.

No. 4 Carrollton (4-1, 2-1) could battle Rome’s offense at the line, but the Wolves had the athletes to break things open. A 64-yard touchdown run from Griffin made it 14-3 in the second quarter, and a 41-yard pass from Kadum to Roberts-Donaldson set up another Kadum touchdown run late in the first half.

While Wright finished with 277 yards and two touchdowns, Carrollton’s up-tempo offense struggled with finishing drives. The Trojans got into Rome territory five times in the first half, but only came away with 10 points.

“We went into the game knowing we couldn’t give up big plays,” Hodges said. “Just make sure you come up on screens and do your job. As long as we play together we will get the job done.”

The fourth quarter saw Sykes score his second touchdown early, giving Rome its largest lead of 45-18. Wright led one more touchdown drive with less than five minutes left in the game.

The second half of Rome’s regular season begins with a trip to Hiram, one of three road games the Wolves still have left. If the first five games are any indication of what is to come, Reid and his team should feel confident the rest of the way.

“If you’re a state contender, you always break the game into three parts, and we’ve gone 5-0 in the first half,” Reid said. “Let’s reset, start over, and see if we can go 5-0 in this second part of the season.”

NOTE: After the first quarter, East Rome alum Ray Donaldson was recognized for his professional career and his current campaign to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Donaldson played center for UGA and then later made six Pro Bowls while playing for the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys.