Clinging to an eight-point lead, the Bulldog defense halted Gordon Lee's offense deep in Rossville territory twice in the second half, and tacked on the game-sealing touchdown in the closing seconds to cap a 6-1 regular season with a 24-8 victory.
"That's a really good team Gordon Lee has," said a relieved RMS head coach Steve Lewis afterward. "Coach (Tony) McAllister has done a great job with them, especially coming back from 0-3 to where they are now. They were on a roll coming in here tonight, and they easily could have won this game."
Rossville took a 16-8 lead after a rapidly-paced first half that saw just two passes attempts and one punt.
After forcing the Trojans to punt on their opening possession, Rossville went 88 yards in nine plays with Grayson Moore accounting for 52 of those yards on four rushes, including the final seven yards, which went for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Jalyn Shelton added the conversion run.
Gordon Lee (3-4) answered with an impressive nine-play, 59-yard drive of its own. Drew Cobb picked up 36 of those yards on seven tough runs before crashing in from three yards out. He added the conversion to tie the game with 3:55 left before intermission.
The Bulldogs, however, took the lead right back after a seven-play, 54-yard march. Shelton had a big 26-yard gain on the drive before bulling his way into the end zone from seven yards out. Moore added the conversion run with 57 seconds left in the first half.
However, it would be Rossville's bend-but-don't-break defense that stole the show in the second half.
After forcing a turnover on downs at the Gordon Lee 40, the Trojans used a 31-yard pass from Logan Hill to Kobie Cowen to drive down to the Rossville 11-yard line. But a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Trojans on a third-and-one play moved them back 15 yards, and Hill's fourth down pass fell incomplete.
But Rossville would get flagged for a 15-yard penalty of their own in its ensuing possession, and they would be forced to punt from deep in its own territory, giving the Trojans outstanding field position at the Rossville 38 with just 5:23 left to play.
Four runs would move the ball inside the Rossville 20, but Caleb Butcher would be stopped on third-and-one from the Bulldogs' 18. Then, on the very next play, the Rossville defense stuffed Hill an inch short of a first down, giving the ball back to the Rossville offense with just over two minutes remaining.
"We've got some good interior defensive linemen," Lewis said. "One thing we've been lucky with is that we haven't had to move offensive linemen over to that side to fill holes. We have three guys who are dedicated defensive linemen, and two inside linebackers in (Chris) Henderson and (Christian) Gentry, who are smart and fill the holes quickly. It would have been easy with how hard Gordon Lee runs the ball to just lay down right there, but they all just decided they were going to make the stops and they did."
Looking to run out the final 2:18 of the game, the Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground, but with just 21 seconds left, Shelton found a seam and raced 69 yards for the insurance score that finally allowed Lewis to breathe a little easier.
"Gordon Lee just lines up and comes at you, and it's up to you to try and stop them," he said. "Cobb and (Chaney) Rogers run as hard as any kids in the league, and their so tough to bring down, but I was proud of our kids for not hanging their heads. We had some adversity tonight, and there were some times tonight when the game wasn't as easy as what they have been used to, but they responded."
Shelton carried 13 times on the night for 154 yards, putting him less than 50 yards shy of the magic 1,000-yard mark for the season. Moore picked up 70 yards on 11 carries.
Cobb led the Trojans with 63 yards on 17 carries, while Rogers had 38 yards on just four attempts.
With LaFayette's victory over Lakeview, and Chattanooga Valley's upset of previously unbeaten Heritage on Thursday, four teams - Dade County, Chattanooga Valley, Gordon Lee, and LaFayette - finished the regular season tied for fourth place with identical 3-4 records.
No decision on who would receive the fourth and final North Georgia Athletic Conference playoff bid had been made as of press time. The semifinals are slated to be held next Thursday.