With two games left in the regular season, the Rockmart Yellow Jackets have plenty going their way with a seven-game winning streak and an undefeated region record.
Friday’s 49-33 home victory over Adairsville added to that pot of positivity, but it also left Rockmart head coach Biff Parson feeling they still have a way to go before reaching their full potential.
“We have a target on our back and we talk about that. Everybody wants to beat Rockmart,” Parson said.
“Right now because of our culture and because of our standard that we were setting, day to day, we’re having success. And we’ve got good players, we’ve got good coaches. The bad aura about all this is when you come off a game you win, you dominate, and I’m not taking anything away from Adairsville, but we felt like we gave them a lot.”
JD Davis threw for 116 yards and ran for another 112 as the sophomore was part of four Rockmart touchdowns in the Region 6-3A contest at The Rock while the Jackets racked up 549 yards of offense.
The win kept Rockmart (7-1, 6-0 6-3A) in the running for a fifth-straight region title as Parson’s squad appears to be headed toward a showdown with undefeated Ringgold in the final game of the regular season. But it also exposed mistakes and struggles that the Jackets have faced all season.
Adairsville (6-2, 4-2) was able to take advantage of two long kickoff returns in the second quarter and score touchdowns with short fields in front of them. The visiting Tigers also got help from costly personal foul and pass interference penalties against the Jackets that kept drives alive and helped Adairsville score more points against Rockmart than any team has this season.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that Rockmart was able to take more than a two-score lead when Cam Ferguson slid through the middle of the line and made one good move before sprinting 71 yards to the end zone on the second play of a drive. The Jackets initiated the possession when they were the benefactors of the game’s only turnover as JoJo Haynes snatched a pass away from Adairsville’s Evan Sanders in the end zone.
The early minutes of the game had good moments for Rockmart. Davis threw a pair of touchdown passes to Dennis Sims, including a 64-yard score, while also scoring on a 30-yard run and finding Keyshaun McCullough downfield in front of a defender for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds left in the first half.
The Jackets led 35-20 at halftime but had allowed Adairsville to stay in the game. A big part of that was Rockmart’s 12 penalties for 118 yards. The team would finish with 190 yards of penalties while Adairsville had 85.
“The mouthing, the celebrating, the pushing after plays, all of that stuff really is a lack of character and it’s a reflection of me, and it bothers me,” Parson said. “We’ve got to figure out how we can get this thing back on track to where we’re playing as one because we’re not playing our best football, we’re really not. We’re sometimes pulling away from the standard instead of pulling together to the standard.”
Parson was clear, however, that the most important thing was getting the win. And he was proud of the offensive line for providing the blocking necessary to allow Rockmart’s running backs to rack up 321 yards and three touchdowns.
“When they get to run the ball hard it’s because of what our offensive line and tight ends are doing. I mean it was impressive,” Parson said. “And then JD managed the game and played extremely well tonight.”
Ferguson finished with 112 yards on 10 carries, while JoJo Haynes had 59 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Brent Washington pushed his way through for extra yardage several times and had 76 yards on nine carries. Nahzir Turner scored on a 13-yard run with 6:36 left in the game to round out Rockmart’s night.
Adairsville had just 82 yards of offense in the first half before finishing with 292. Rockmart’s defense sacked Tiger quarterback Jonathan Gough four times as he was 12-of-22 passing for 108 yards. Eli Agnew had 16 carries for 116 yards for Adairsville and four touchdowns.
Rockmart will be on the road next week with a trip to LaFayette and a meeting with the Ramblers before returning home Nov. 5 to face Ringgold.