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Much like last season, as the regular season winds down, the Rockwood Tigers look like a team that is poised for a deep playoff run.
Just ask Bledsoe County.
Using a nice blend of running and passing, the Tigers seized control of the game early and went on to crush the visiting Warriors 45-19 on Civitan Field Friday night.
Rockwood (6-3, 4-1) was dominant up front, controlling the line of scrimmage and making easy work of the visitors.
The win makes the competitive District 3-1A even more confusing. Rockwood, along with Greenback, Grace Christian and Harriman all have 3-1 district records now. Grace is ineligible for the playoffs after getting caught cheating last season and Greenback defeated the Tigers early in the season. A Tiger win on Friday against Harriman would give them second place and an automatic berth in the playoffs, along with a home game in the first round.
The Tigers used special teams to nab momentum early when Tavin Napier blocked a punt after Rockwood had held Bledsoe on the initial series of the game. This time Rockwood was unable to punch it in for a score, but Jared Breazeale nailed a 36-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead 3-0.
Rockwood controlled things most of the quick-flowing first quarter and once again threatened as the second stanza got under way.
Runs by Dylan Deardorff and Everett Campbell highlighted a drive that was capped with a perfect 18-yard pass from Lucas Jolley to Cameron Webster for a touchdown, putting the Tigers ahead 10-0 with 11:12 left in the first half.
Bledsoe answered and it appeared there may be a contested game, but Rockwood wasted little time in scoring again.
Campbell's running again powered the Tigers down the field and this time Jolley hooked up with Josh Boles on a 20-yard touchdown pass, giving Rockwood a 17-7 advantage with 8:06 left in the second quarter.
But the Tigers weren't done in the first half.
Collin Smith took the offense on his shoulders this time, slicing through the Warrior defense as the Tigers moved down the field easily. Smith would finish the drive with a one-yard plunge and after Breazeale was good with another extra point, the Tigers held a comfortable 24-7 lead at the end of the first half.
If Bledsoe had any thoughts of making a comeback, Rockwood crushed them with the opening drive of the second half.
The Tigers consumed a lot of clock and shoved the Warriors around. Smith, who finished the night with 75 yards on 10 carries, was impressive, picking up huge chunks of yardage. Jolley hit Deardorff on another touchdown pass from 19 yards away, putting Rockwood ahead 31-7 with 6:16 left in the third.
Rockwood and Bledsoe would exchange scores again, but the Rockwood defense was hitting hard and playing solid, assignment football. Led by Hayden Freels, the Tigers were aggressive and swarmed the football all night.
Rockwood’s Ethan Headrick scored from one yard out to give the Tigers a 38-7 lead.
Rockwood's "icing on the cake" came as the game was winding down when Tyler Skidmore stepped in front of a Bledsoe County pass and 30 yards for another Tiger touchdown. The Warriors scored late, but it was of little consequence as the Rockwood celebrated an impressive 45-13 win.
Unofficially, the Tigers rolled up 20 first downs during the game and ran the ball 54 times for 279 yards, something that had to make RHS head coach John Webb smile. But the Tigers had a bit of balance, with Jolley going 8-of-14 through the air for 102 yards.
Behind Smith's output, Rockwood got 51 yards from Everett, while Breazeale ran three times for 58 yards.
Jolley's favorite receiver on the night was Webster, who had three catches for 40 yards. Boles had a pair of grabs for 27 yards and Deardorff had two for 22 yards.
Friday, Rockwood will host rival Harriman to end the regular season. The duo will renew the state's oldest high school football rivalry. Last year, the Tigers had an easy time with the Blue Devils, winning 35-7.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.