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Tiftarea visits Bulloch

Tiftarea visits Bulloch

Tiftarea visits Bulloch

    It’s been a few bumpy weeks for the Bulloch Academy Gators.
    Bulloch started off the season with back-to-back wins, but has now dropped three of its last four. Even a bye week couldn’t stop the slide as the Gators (3-3, 0-1) opened up Region 1-AAA play with a 38-10 loss to two-time defending state champion Deerfield-Windsor last week.
    Tonight, the Gators try to notch their first region win as Tiftarea Academy (4-3, 0-1) comes to town for a homecoming tilt.
    One region loss might not be much to get worried over, but with state power Westfield and arch rival Pinewood still on the schedule, the Gators can ill afford another loss.
    “This is going to be a big one,” Bulloch coach Ronnie Hodges said. “You’ve got a couple of teams that are 0-1 in region play. The intensity is going to ramp up. We know that we have to start playing a little better.”
    In the past, the Panthers have been a welcome breather on the region schedule. Tiftarea has had just three winning seasons in the last 12 years, but second year coach Ryan Branch has his alma mater back on track and has already led his squad to more wins in 2013 than in the previous two seasons combined.
    After losing just four seniors last season, Tiftarea brings an older and much more experienced group into Gator Alley looking to avenge Bulloch’s 40-7 win last season.
    The Panthers still spread the field and won’t hesitate to put the ball in the air, but they have also developed a running game this season. A more diverse offense is always tougher to game plan for than a one-dimensional attack, but the depleted Gator sideline is just fine with the prospect of not having to chase receivers all around the field on each snap.
    “We definitely still have depth issues,” Hodges said. “We’re thin in a lot of places and we still have a number of guys playing out of position. It’s really been making things difficult.”
    Hodges mentioned that Daniel Hendrix (running back/defensive back) and Hobby Mills (offensive and defensive line) might be able to return to action, but aren’t certain to be in the starting lineup.
    Key to BA’s success will be its ability to recapture the offense of the first two weeks of the season. Will Rushing was a pleasant surprise under center, but his passing and running effectiveness have been hindered by an aching offensive line.
    The Gators put up 86 points in their first two contests, but have stumbled to just 30 more points in their last four games.
    “We’ve had our issues with injuries and with execution,” Hodges said. “One thing I will say — our guys don’t quit. We know it’s a tough road, and playing Tiftarea is no exception. But as long as our guys keep fighting hard, good things are going to happen for them.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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