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All Bulloch football teams in action Friday night
Burke County at Statesboro; SEB at Hephzibah; Wilkinson County at Portal; Savannah High at BA
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After taking the handoff from quarterback Kam Mikell, background, Statesboro High running back Jordan Lovett gets taken down in the backfield by Effingham County defender Luke Roberts during the third quarter on Friday, Sept. 2. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Blue Devils to face 4-0 Burke County

The Statesboro Blue Devils are coming off back-to- back losses as they return home to face another challenge when 4-0 Burke County visits Womack Field Friday night. 

The Blue Devils managed to keep Friday’s game close as they went to the fourth quarter tied with Wayne County at 7-7. A combination of the offense being ineffective and special teams having to scramble to find a long snapper saw the Yellow Jackets outscore Statesboro 21-0 in the fourth and led to a 28-7 loss.

“Defensively I felt like we had a great effort against Wayne County and just wore down a little at the end having to be on the field so much,” said coach Jeff Kaiser. “I know nobody wants to hear this but I really feel we are close on offense and it’s just a matter of regrouping and putting it all together. We will get some guys back after the Burke game and having an open week following that as we prepare for our region schedule.”

The Blue Devils still have several weapons on offense and Kaiser is confident that things can be turned around.

“We feel like we had at least three passes that should have been caught including two for touchdowns,” said Kaiser. “There are just little things that maybe everyone doesn’t see, but we notice. Five of our seven interior linemen graded well enough to win, so we just feel we are close it’s just a matter of ironing some things out.”

The Bears come in as the No. 5 ranked team in Class 4-A. typically known for a punishing and athletic run game, the Bears have had plenty of success this year throwing the ball as 6-5 senior quarterback Marshall Flowers has thrown for nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Burke County is always good and that is why we play them,” Kaiser said. “They line up in one hundred different formations so they make you simplify defensively. On defense they just scream to the ball and attack with plenty of size and athleticism. We will have some new guys up front on offense due to injuries and we expect them to be ready.”

As far as the keys to a Blue Devil victory Friday night, Kaiser went with a quote from Georgia Southern legend Erk Russell.

“Coach Russell used to say you need a little luck,” Kaiser said. “We believe we make our own luck and we need to just keep playing hard. We need to be able to catch a big-time break when things are close. Balls have bounced the other way the past couple games. I think the psyche of the team is still in a good place and we are ready for the challenge.”

The Blue Devils and Bears are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday night at Womack Field.

 

SEB hits the road to face Hephzibah

The long season for the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets got a much-needed bright spot this past Friday night as the Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak by knocked off the visiting Tattnall County Warriors, 23-9, at Fred Shaver Field in Brooklet behind a 178-yard rushing effort from Kyon Taylor and a solid outing by the Yellow Jacket defense.

“Everybody feels so much better after getting a win,” said SEB coach Jared Zito. “We had a good week of practice and then everyone played really hard Friday. We challenged their toughness at halftime and I think we really responded after a couple turnovers in the first half led to both the Tattnall scores. I am proud of the way we responded.”

Zito felt like the Jackets did a particularly good job up front of offense and played a steady, consistent game defensively.

“We really leaned heavily on our offensive line and our run game,” Zito said. “Kyon Taylor had a great game and we really did a great job coming off the football being physical. Gage DiGiovanni did a good job connecting on a couple of passes but I still felt like we left some points out there. Our red-zone offense struggled a little and we need to be able to punch the ball in the end zone when we get close instead of having to settle for field goals.”

This week, the Jackets will be back on the road as they travel to Hephzibah. The Rebels are currently 2-2 on the season with wins over Westside and Augusta Christian and losses to Laney and Tattnall County.

The Rebels are led by senior quarterback Jalen Patrick and 6-0, 215-pound junior running back Telly Johnson who is averaging just under 100 yards per game and has four touchdowns.

“They have a huge offensive line which averages about 300 pounds across the board,” Zito said. “Their quarterback Jalen Patrick is their most dynamic player and can score from just about anywhere. Johnson is a solid big back that has the ability to make big plays as well. They are coming off a bye week so we know they will be well rested and it should be a good game.”

Playing their final non-region game, Zito knows the importance of going into region play with a couple of wins under their belt.

“This is our last non-region game,” Zito said. “We have a bye week next week and we know from here on out, it’s all region games and they are the most important ones. It would be great to build a little momentum as we start the region schedule so we know we will be focused and ready to play Friday.

Southeast Bulloch and Hephzibah are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday in Hephzibah.

 

Portal looks to rebound from first loss

The Portal Panthers have had to deal with the adversity that comes after a loss many times over the past few seasons.

This week, however, is the first time this year the Panthers have had to try and rebound from a loss, as they fell in the final minutes last Friday on the road at Bryan County 28-24. 

Head coach Jason McEachin said the team took the loss pretty hard Friday, but believes everyone is back on the same page this week as they prepare for a home matchup with Wilkinson County. 

“We have definitely been able to flush that loss and move on,” he said. “We went over how the game ended one last time on Monday and then decided that was the last moment we were going to talk about the Bryan County game because all that would do is hold us back if we didn’t put it behind us. We did some good things in that game and we hope to build on those this week against Wilkinson County.”

McEachin has plenty to help keep him optimistic including the play of junior quarterback Elijah Coleman and fellow junior Amir Jackson, who have not only been putting up some impressive numbers, but also making news statewide as on back-to-back weeks they have been featured on Recruit Georgia’s Top-5 plays.

“We have really tried to move things around a little in order to get Amir more involved,” McEachin said. “At 6-6 he may be the biggest slot back in the country, but we just need to find ways to get him the ball and he runs hard and is tough to bring down. From that spot we can hand it to him, toss it to him or throw it to him. He can also be used as a decoy as defenses have to account for him wherever he is.”

Jackson has already been offered a scholarship by Georgia Southern, while

Coleman may have to make a collegiate choice between football and basketball. He is currently leading the Panther’s classification in rushing and touchdowns scored. Coleman currently has 623 yards rushing through four games with 12 touchdowns, including nine on the ground.

“He has matured as a young man but also as an athlete,” McEachin said. “He has an uncanny ability to see the whole field and has made great strides in learning when to reverse field and try to make a play and when to just get a few yards and get out of bounds. He has also been a lot more aggressive about getting vertical because when he puts his foot down and heads toward the end zone there are not a lot of players who can keep up with him.”

This week the Panthers return home as they host Wilkinson County. The Warriors come in with a 1-2 record with losses against Dublin and Greene County and a 53-13 win over Crawford County.

“We had a couple of players on defense we had to play last week without, and we feel like they will add a lot to our depth and starting rotation this week,” McEachin said. “We are extremely excited about returning home. We have our next three games at home and we know we really have to take care of business at home.

“Wilkinson County has several athletes who can run well and a few big linemen. I feel like we match up with them pretty well and have a few more players than they do on the roster and I hope that helps play in our favor Friday night.”

Portal and Wilkinson County are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday at the Portal Athletic Complex.

 

Gators playing host to Savannah High

The Bulloch Academy offense has been tough to slow down. The Gators have been able to score on the majority of their possessions.

The problem, so far, has been the BA defense has allowed opposing teams to do much the same. That was the case this past Friday night in a game that was finished in less than two hours. The Gators scored on three of their five possessions, but Augusta Prep scored on four of their five possessions and ended up taking the game 27-20.

“Both teams wanted to control the clock and run the football and so it was over pretty quickly,” said BA coach Aaron Phillips. “There were only two total penalties and we did pretty much what we wanted to on offense for the most part. We rushed for nearly 400 yards and Bryson Scott led us from the fullback position with 145 yards rushing and had a pair of touchdowns.

“Our only penalty put us behind the chains and we came up about a half of a yard shy of a first down on fourth down in the second half. They came down and scored and that proved to be the difference in the game.”

The defensive issues have plagued the Gators for most of the season and frustrated Phillips because he believes the offense continues to do enough to put the Gators in a position to win. 

“You start second guessing yourself on offense because you are afraid if we give up the ball the other team will score,” Phillips said. “We just have to figure a way to stop the bleeding on defense and make a few plays. We have a lot of young guys over there and not a lot of experience but it is time for them to show some improvement.”

The Gators have led at halftime in all four games this year and Phillips is hoping they can do a better job of carrying that first half intensity into the second half. 

“We are doing a great job coming out strong in all our games,” he said. “If we have any issues, they have occurred in the second half. We are going to have to do a little better job of being consistent and we have to be able to do a better job of tackling and being more aggressive on defense.”

This week the Gators will host Savannah High for the first time in school history. The Blue Jackets come in struggling this year as they are 0-5 and have been outscored 185-36. Bulloch Academy is the first, and only, GISA team the Blue Jackets play this season.

“The good thing with our offense is it is tough to get ready for in only a week,” Phillips said. “They will dress out about 60 guys and it looks like they have some pretty good athletes over there. They are a 3-A school and it should be a challenge but I have confidence in our team that we will be ready.”

Bulloch Academy and Savannah High are slated for a 7:30 start at Gator Alley.