The scoreboard had one thing to say about Rockmart’s game against Region 6-3A foe North Murray on Friday night.
It ultimately goes down as a Jacket victory, their fourth in a row, as Rockmart’s defense kept the visiting Mountaineers at bay for most of the contest and senior Keyshaun McCullough celebrated three touchdowns.
But Rockmart head coach Biff Parson saw the cracks in the armor from the sidelines as penalties and mistakes led to a much closer contest at halftime that was only alleviated by a doubling down on offense in the second half of the 34-13 win.
What was clear to him was while the Jackets hold a 3-0 record in region play, there is no time to rest.
“I mean we’re not even close to playing our best football,” Parson said. “We’ve still got a lot of young kids playing and still making the same mistakes, and we as coaches have got to do better and the kids have got to do a better job of coming to practice and learning the schemes and understanding what we’re doing.
“I’m not giving anybody excuses. There’s an expectation to be excellent here, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
What went well during the game, Rockmart’s first after a bye week, was the Jackets’ rushing and their rush defense as the home team rolled up more than 300 yards on the ground while North Murray squeaked out 112.
North Murray (3-2, 2-2 6-3A) held the 3-0 advantage for just a little while however as Rockmart put together a 10-play, 68-yard drive that ended with McCullough sprinting his way 22 yards for his first touchdown of the night.
Down 14-3 at the half, the Mountaineers opened the second half with a promising drive that reached the Rockmart 7-yard line on fourth-and-1 before a false start penalty on the next play forced them back and resulted in a field goal.
A little over two minutes of game time was all it took for Rockmart to move down the field on the ensuing drive and score, this time on a 12-yard pass from JD Davis to Dennis Sims. The point-after attempt failed, but the hosts still held a two-score lead.
North Murray’s next possession began with a completed pass for negative yards and an incomplete pass before Griffin hurled a pass down field that found Sims waiting to pick it off.
Rockmart (4-1, 3-0) would convert the turnover into an 8-play, 77-yard scoring drive with McCullough finding the end zone from 10 yards out to complete it.
Devin Hunte’s 15-yard rush for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter was North Murray’s only trip to the end zone in the game, which came after Rockmart had rolled up a 34-6 lead.
“We adjusted some things at halftime. The coaches did a good job and we started finding a rhythm offensively,” Parson said. “Defensively we played a great game. We gave up a cheap one we felt like at the end, but holding North Murray who averages around 40 points a game to 13, we felt good about that.”
Mountaineer quarterback Seth Griffin was 15-of-26 for 147 yards and was without leading receiver Michael McDade, who reported on Twitter earlier this week that he is out for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus.
“They’re a good football team and you’ve got to give credit to their coaching staff for getting them prepared,” Parson said. “We had about four or five possessions where we felt like we were hurting ourselves with missed assignments, not communicating up front on offense, some dropped balls, some protection issues.”
The Jackets lost a fumble on the third play of the opening drive of the game, which North Murray eventually turned into a 35-yard field goal with about 5:21 to go in the first quarter. Rockmart overcame a false start penalty and converted on fourth-and-1 on the ensuing possession before McCullough tallied his first score of the game.
Rockmart will be on the road this week, traveling to Catoosa County to take on Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe. The Warriors are 0-5 on the season after having lost to Sonoraville 47-12 this past week.