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All Bulloch County football teams in action Friday night
Portal
Portal quarterback Elijah Coleman slips the grasp of Robert Toombs Christian Academy defender Jayden Toole and heads for the end zone in a game played Sept. 1. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File

Panthers go for fifth win vs. Montgomery

While many high school football games were postponed or cancelled last week, the Portal Panthers actually had their game forfeited Friday night.

The Panthers were originally scheduled to play Georgia School for Innovation and Classics, but lack of numbers forced the Patriots to forfeit the game. The win improves the Panthers to 4-2 which is their best start since 2005.

Portal head coach Jason McEachin is trying to focus on the positives that have led to this point in the season rather than the back-to-back tough losses Portal had prior to last week’s forfeit victory.

“We were looking for a chance to play and get things right with a little confidence,” said McEachin. “Everyone was disappointed considering it was homecoming as well. We tried all we could to make the game work but they just felt they didn’t have the numbers. I have been trying to stress with the team the positives and what we have been able to accomplish this season and streaks that have broken and I feel we go into this week with a positive mentality.” 

Regardless of the Panther’s record, this week is when the games really start to matter. Portal opens region play at home Friday against Montgomery County. Homecoming festivities that were set for last Friday have been moved to this week and McEachin is expecting a good crowd for the game.

“I feel like the excitement level is high this week,” said McEachin. “Homecoming brings a lot of anticipation and opening the region schedule is exciting as well. I have confidence our fans will turn out.”

Montgomery County comes in with a record of 3-3 and will be playing their first region game of the year as well. The Eagles Have only had one close game this year and that was a 14-8 win against Taylor County.

The other games have been lopsided wins, or losses including a 28-7 loss last Wednesday to Bryan County. Portal took Bryan County down to the wire a few weeks ago before finally falling 28-24.

“I think we match up with them very well,” said McEachin. “We match up better with them as far as the lines of scrimmage go than we have the last two opponents. When you look at common opponents, we feel we had a real chance to beat Bryan County and they struggled against them a lot more than the final score may indicate.”

McEachin feels the keys for success this Friday include the offense being able to sustain drives and the defense and special teams being able to corral the Eagles most explosive player in Cameron Wallace who is averaging over 115 yards per game rushing and has recently been moved from running back to quarterback. The talented senior has already received offers from Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Arkansas State.

“Cameron Wallace is the most dynamic individual player we have seen all season,” said McEachin. “He has multiple Division-1 offers and he can fly. They have moved him around and in the last couple games they moved him to quarterback. He can throw a little but he basically sits back in the wildcat formation and just looks for a spot to run. We have to be able to wrap up and hold him in check as best as possible.

“We play with a lot of speed on the field so that should help us. He also returns punts and kickoffs and we will have to be aware of where he is. On the flip side I don’t think they have seen players like Amir Jackson and Elijah Coleman this year, so it should be a good matchup.”

Portal and Montgomery County are scheduled for a 7:30 start Friday in Portal.

 

SHS begins region play at Greenbrier

The Statesboro Blue Devils are currently 1-4, but have either been tied or had the lead in three of those four losses. Head coach Jeff Kaiser put together a tough pre-region schedule to try and have the Blue Devils battle tested as they approach region play which starts this week against Greenbrier. 

“I think our team understands the schedule we have and why we have played so many tough teams,” said Kaiser. “We know how strong our region is and it’s important for us to play as many good teams as we can to prepare for our region schedule. We have been competitive and I really like the effort we have shown throughout the season. We feel like we may have let a couple get away, but we also know we have hung in there with some really good football teams.”

The Blue Devils are coming off their second bye week of the season as they prepare for their region opener with Greenbrier. Kaiser lost a pair of offensive linemen over the past couple of weeks, and is having to juggle around to find replacements and is grateful for the extra week to prepare.

“We hope it has been a benefit in giving the kids a little extra time to heal up and get ready,” said Kaiser. “We missed a day of practice last week with schools shutting

Down, but they have been pretty excited about being back on the field practicing this week. We have some concerns up front so it’s next man up there. On defense we get a couple guys back who have been banged up so we feel pretty good on that side of the ball.”

Coming off a bye week won’t give the Blue Devils a leg up on their competition as the entire region was off last Friday. Friday will mark the region opener for Statesboro as they travel to Greenbrier who come in winless on the season at 0-5.

“The practice games are over and now this is when the games really count,” said Kaiser. “They are very multiple on offense. It’s like preparing for the offense of the week as you never know how they will line up. On defense they run a 3-5 scheme which we saw the last time we were out against Burke County. You always wonder when a team has an extra week off if they will make significant changes so we have to be ready to adjust on the fly if they do.”

The Wolfpack have really struggled on offense so far this year as they are averaging only eight points per game which included scoring 20 points in their last time on the field in a 40-20 loss to Aquinas. On defense, Greenbrier is giving up 32 points per contest.

“They play very hard and have a Division-1 receiver in Malik Leverett (6-3, 200 pounds) who has been out the entire year and is due to be back this week,” said Kaiser. “We have seen enough film on him the past couple years to know what a great talent he is. They play two quarterbacks with one more of a game manager and thrower, while the other can really run. They play hard and we are going to have to be ready.”

Statesboro and Greenbrier are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff at Greenbrier in Evans.

 

SEB looks for second straight victory

Southeast Bulloch head coach Jared Zito made a great call last week when he got Islands to come play Wednesday night as the Jackets not only won the game 34-7, but also got a few days to rest and prepare for a tough region matchup this Friday as they head to New Hampstead. 

The Jackets played a solid game on both sides of the ball, scoring their most points of the season, while holding their opponent to the least number of points they’ve given up this year.

“The biggest thing to take away from Friday was getting a region win and starting 1-0 in region play,” Zito said. “It really benefited us to get those extra couple days of rest. I felt like we played the best game of the year on defense and we looked faster than we have all season.

“On offense I really thought we probably could have scored a couple more touchdowns in the game, but I did like what I saw. In the second half we were finally able to score in the fourth quarter and I think that was great for our psyche.”

The good news for Southeast Bulloch is the victory over Islands was the Jackets region opener and they currently sit 1-0 in region play. The bad news is things will get progressively tougher and that begins this week with a trip to Pooler and a matchup with the 4-1 New Hampstead Phoenix.

“I think they are very well coached, especially offensively,” said Zito. “They aren't overly complicated but they are sound. On defense they have good looking athletes who can run to the ball. They are 4-1 so they will come in with plenty of confidence as they kind of have things rolling over there.”

The Phoenix have outscored their opponents by an average margin of 37-14. They are led offensively by running back Kaleb Smith who is averaging just over 104 yards per game. Quarterback Paul Seely has 813 yards passing and 13 touchdowns. The Phoenix top receiver is Malachi Lonnon with 230 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

“Kyle Hockman, who is their head coach, is an offensive guy and does a great job,” said Zito. “They have a really good quarterback who is accurate and makes good decisions. They also have some skilled wide receivers and an impressive running back in Smith and do a good job up front with their offensive line. It will be a challenge to slow them down.”

Zito feels among the keys to the game is to not turn the ball over and for the Jacket offense to control the clock and keep the Phoenix offense on the sidelines the best they can.

“They are capable of making some explosive plays on offense,” said Zito. “I think if we can put together some long sustained drives and keep them out of getting in a rhythm on offense and hold onto the ball, I think we will have a good shot.”

Southeast Bulloch and New Hampstead are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff in Pooler.

 

Gators ready to take on Briarwood

It’s been an up and down season for the Bulloch Academy Gators.

The Gators are currently 3-2 on the season, but have yet to string together back-to-back victories. After winning their season opener the Gators lost to Augusta Christian. They turned things around with a win against Trinity, but then lost to Augusta Prep.

The last time the Gators took to the field was a Sept. 23 shutout against Savannah High which coach Aaron Phillips feels was their most complete game of the season.

“We basically replaced all 11 starters on defense in the Savannah High game and I think we really improved,” said Phillips. “We tried to tackle every day and play better in space and it paid off in that game. We still have a long way to go on that side of the ball but we showed a lot of improvement.”

As far as the Gator offense goes Phillips has liked what he has seen for the most part, all season long. The Gators are averaging over 35 points per game and have taken quickly to the option attack Phillips implemented.

“When we have not put the ball on the ground or committed a penalty our offense has been pretty unstoppable,” said Phillips. “We can’t get an early penalty and put ourselves behind the chains or that can be a problem. We have also hurt ourselves at times with turnovers. We feel like we have a lot of weapons with our backs and they have all contributed which makes it tough on defenses to just try and stop one guy.”

This week the Gators will host Briarwood Academy. The Bucs come in with a record of 3-3 on the season. Briarwood has only one common opponent with the Gators and while they defeated Trinity 50-3 Bulloch Academy had to hang on in a shootout to defeat the Crusaders 57-55.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” said Phillips. “Briarwood likes to line up and run the football. Their head coach and athletic director Bo Fleming is my best friend. We played together and were in the same region together for a while. I am excited and I hope the kids are excited. This is homecoming as well and we have really tried to preach that the most important thing for these guys this week is the homecoming game itself.”

The Bucs offense is led by sophomore running back Charlie Mosley who is averaging just under 100 yards per game and has 10 touchdowns.

“They are really big up front and have three talented running backs with Mosely being the leading guy,” said Phillips. “They like to get in the I-formation as well as the wishbone. They want to try and run downhill and possessions are going to be at a premium.”

Bulloch Academy and Briarwood are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday night at Gator Alley.