62nd Battle of the Bell carries big playoff implications

On Friday night from Tiger Stadium, the Cameron Yoemen and Rockdale Tigers will be going at it in the 62nd edition of the Battle of the Bell.  In 2014, the Yoemen lost the bell to Rockdale before winning the more important game during the state quarterfinals en route to the third consecutive state championship.  Cameron proceeded to take the bell back in 2015, 27-6. 


This year’s game will be as big as any other as neither team wants to lose to their arch rival.  Yoemen head coach Tommy Brashear played for the Yoemen in the 90s.  He now gets to lead the team as the head coach.


“I think the Battle of the Bell is huge,” said Brashear.  “It’s huge to me and it means a lot to this community.  I know when our 7th graders play for the first time versus Rockdale, they are pretty nervous because they know that it’s a big game.  They know we have to beat Rockdale.  It is expected.”


Though the Yoemen hold a 42-19 advantage all-time, the series has been more competitive since the 2007 season.   Overall, the Yoemen have a slim 5-4 lead since that time. 


“I've been a part of a few losses of the bell, fortunately never as a player but as a coach we have lost it a couple of times,” said Brashear.  “It's a very bad feeling and it's a hard loss to get over.  I know how it feels and I don't want to feel that way and we're not planning on feeling that way.  We are going to work hard in practice this week and keep that bell.”


Typically you can throw out records this week, but it appears that both Cameron (6-1/3-0) and Rockdale (5-1/2-0) are once again two of the best in the region. 


“I think it makes it an ever bigger and more important game.” stated Brashear.  “It brings even more attention to it with two teams with one loss and good records that are both undefeated in district.  Not only are we playing for the bell here we are playing for first place in district.”


In 2016, Rockdale has wins over West (33-21), Lexington (62-35), Rogers (48-9), Little River Academy (56-13) and Troy (49-35).  The lone loss came to Taylor in week two, 37-28.  The Yoemen are ranked as high as number one (Calpreps) while Rockdale is as high as number nine (Pigskin Prep). 



The Tigers were expected to be a more complete team in 2016.  Rockdale averaged 36.25 points in 2015 but that has ballooned up to 46 points per contest this year. 


“Rockdale has some speed on their team,” said Brashear.  “They won state in the relays last year.  The quarterback Franklin, receiver Crawford and running back Ford are all very good athletes for them.”

QB David Franklin is accounting for 67 percent of the Tigers offense.  The senior has completed 56-108 passes for 1173 yards and 9 touchdowns.  He also leads the team in rushing yards with 67 carries for 661 yards and 8 touchdowns. 


Running back Davion Ford has carried the ball 111 times for 581 yards and 13 touchdowns. 


The top receiving threat is Jaqualyn Crawford, which has offers from TCU, Houston, SMU, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Vanderbilt.  The junior has caught 21 passes for 550 yards and 6 touchdowns in six games. 



Rockdale returned 7 of their 11 starters this season.  The defense gave up 28.6 points per game for 2015 and that number is down slightly to 25 this year.


“They have a very good defense overall,” said Brashear.  “They have some good players in some key spots.  The two corners are two-way starters with Crawford and Franklin.  Their defensive line is very stout and physical.  Quentin White at nose guard does a really good job of clogging up holes.  Patrick Dean at defensive end does a good job as well.”

Besides White and Dean, LB Dylan David will be another player to keep an eye on.  David earned second team all-district honors as a junior. 


District Championship on the line?


Rockdale still has to deal with the likes of McGregor and Franklin, but if the Yoemen win this game they will not only retain the bell but they will also be in excellent position to win the district championship, in addition to securing the number one seed for the playoffs.


“Our goals at the beginning of the year was to keep the bell and another was to get that district championship,” said Brashear.  “Winning this game puts us in the driver seat big time.”


10-3A play

In other district action, Troy (1-2) will travel to Academy (1-1) in a must-win game for both teams.  McGregor (0-2) will travel to Jarrell (0-3) in hopes to prove they are better than their 0-2 start. 


Kickoff for the BOTB is set for 7:30 p.m. from Tiger Stadium in Rockdale.  If you want a desired seat, showing up as early as 5:00 p.m. is recommended as always for this game.