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All Bulloch high school football teams on the road Friday
Southeast Bulloch running back AJ Johnson finds the end zone during the first quarter against Islands on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Jackets take on state power Benedictine

The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets went into last Friday riding high after their region opening victory over Islands, but followed that up with a tough 34-22 loss last week in Pooler to New Hampstead. The Jackets actually led the game going into the half, but a fumble deep into their own territory just before halftime would lead to a Phoenix touchdown and Southeast Bulloch head coach Jared Zito said that momentum shift may have been the key to the game.

“I thought we played great defense throughout the first half only allowing one score,” said Zito. “We were trying to make something happen late in the first half and things broke down and we turned the ball over and allowed them to score. That was really the game changer. We traded scores for a bit in the second half but weren’t able to get close enough to come back. Our effort has continued to be solid, but we have been unable to overcome mistakes like we had against New Hampstead.” If the Yellow Jackets faced a step up in competition going from playing Islands to playing New Hampstead, this week is an even bigger leap as they will travel to No. 2 ranked 4-2 Benedictine.

The Yellow Jackets have played a very competitive schedule, but the Cadets have played a murderer’s row. The Cadets have only lost two games this season with one coming against Miami’s Columbus high school, who is currently ranked No. 6 in Florida and No. 35 in the nation. The other loss was a 14-10 loss to No. 1 ranked Ware County. The Cadets are averaging 25 points per game but are giving up only 10 points per contest.

“We hope that by playing some tough teams before region play, we at least got them ready to see a team like this,” said Zito. “The fact is we are going to continue to play good teams the rest of the way on out. We need to be a little more perfect and that comes down to practicing with more focus and understanding that preparing for teams like this take place in the offseason as well with workouts and trying to get bigger, stronger and faster.”

The Cadets are led by Florida State commit 6-4, 185-pound junior quarterback Luke Kromenhoek who has thrown for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Kromenhoek has also rushed for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Their leading running back is Na’Seir Samuel who has rushed for 399 yards. Senior Za’Quan Bryan was over 100 years rushing and another 300 yards receiving with four touchdowns.

“We saw a really good quarterback last week against New Hampstead, but Kromenhoek is even better,” said Zito. “They have a lot of weapons including Bryan who they do a good job of getting him in space. Their defensive line is big and physical. That is probably the most impressive part of their defense. They can all run really well and you can tell they are well coached. There is no doubt this will be a challenge for us.'

Southeast Bulloch and Benedictine are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start Friday in Savannah.


Statesboro faces tough region foe

The Statesboro Blue Devils gained a little momentum and kicked off their region schedule on a good note as they shut out Greenbrier 35-0 last Friday on the road in Evans to move to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in region play. Head coach Jeff Kaiser was happy with what he saw on both sides of the ball on the heels of the Blue Devils first shutout of the season.

“Any time you win 35-0 you are going to have plenty to feel good about,” said Kaiser. 'I was pleased by how we did on defense for all but maybe the start of the third quarter. We made some adjustments and battled back and really flew to the ball well. On offense we really beat them with some big plays. There were a couple drives where we didn’t execute and threw two interceptions that could have gone for touchdowns if they weren’t underthrown, so that is something we have to improve. I really liked the way we played on both lines of scrimmage, we just need to get a little more consistent on offense.”

This week the Blue Devils will go from a winless team to a team with only one blemish on their record as they’ll make the two hour plus drive to Douglas for a matchup with the No. 8 ranked 5-1 Coffee Trojans. The Trojans lost 10-year head coach Robby Pruitt who moved on to coach in Florida. He was replaced by a successful sunshine state coach in Mike Coe who comes to Coffee from Madison County.

“Coach Coe is from Florida so there are a few unknowns there,” said Kaiser. “They are still the typical Coffee team which is to say they are big and fast and physical. If we had to compare them to a team we have played this year I would say they are a lot like Burke County, only a little bigger.”

The Trojans come in averaging over 44 points per game on offense and are led by running back Antwain McDuffie who is averaging just over 100 yards per game rushing including 10 touchdowns. The Trojans are far from a one-back team though as junior running back Fred Brown has 390 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Quarterback Maurice Hansley has thrown for 589 yards and five touchdowns and has also rushed for 124 yards and two scores.

“They are a very multiple, spread option team on offense,” said Kaiser. “They have a really good offensive line. They have a couple of running backs who run hard and are tough to bring down. Both of their offensive tackles are big and physical. They have also scored multiple touchdowns on special teams this year and have scored multiple times on defense as well.”

On defense the Trojans have been pretty stingy allowing just 12 points per game and are coming off their region opening victory, a 42-13 win against Bradwell Institute.

“They run a 4-2-5 scheme on defense,” said Kaiser. “They really run to the ball well. They have a big defensive lineman Jackson Banks who is about 6-2 and 260 pounds and I don’t think we have played a player with his size and ability this year. We are going to have our hands full, and will probably be the underdog again, but I feel like our kids are looking forward to the challenge.”

Statesboro and Coffee are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start Friday in Douglas.


Gators up against undefeated Jaguars

In the same season in which Georgia Southern abandoned the option offense, the Bulloch Academy Gators installed the triple option. The irony though is both teams are 3-3 and have also had the same issues on the field. Both offenses are putting up strong numbers but their defenses have struggled and both teams have had issues closing the deal in their three losses.

Last week the Gators traded touchdowns throughout the game with Briarwood at Gator Alley. Bulloch Academy led 27-21 and the Gators drove all the way to the 11-yard line. A pass in the end zone was caught in the air, but dropped when the receiver hit the ground on fourth and six as the Gators lost their second straight game and third game this season by one score.

“We really played so well on defense for most of the first half, and then late in the second quarter they scored a touchdown, and then scored on a kickoff return,” said Phillips. “Our offense has been pretty consistent, but our defense has been a little

more up and down. We also committed some defensive penalties and we aren’t good enough on that side of the ball to overcome that right now. We are averaging over 389 yards per game rushing on offense and 33 points per game. That should be enough to have us better than 3-3 but we still have big games ahead and are confident we can get rolling.”

This week the Gators travel to Thomas Jefferson as they square off against former Bulloch Academy head coach Terence Hennessy’s 6-0 Jaguars. Coach Phillips is aware of the history as well as what The Jaguars can do.

“I am very familiar with coach Hennessy having coached against him when I was at EBA,” said Phillips. “They love to run the football just like we do and will line up in the wishbone, and go to the flex bone as well. His kids have been running this offense since he got there and they know the scheme and what is expected of them very well.”

The Jaguars come in averaging 33 points per game and are allowing just over 14 points per contest. They are led by one of the best running back names in the state as junior Beans Hunt averages just under 120 yards rushing per game and has 11 touchdowns. Fellow running back senior John Durden has 554 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

“They have a pretty explosive offensive attack,” said Phillips. They have already beaten Brentwood who was considered the top team in Class-AA and Briarwood who we just lost to and is considered the second-best team in Class-AA. They also beat August Prep who we lost to. This is going to be a tall test for us and we welcome that.”

Thomas Jefferson and Bulloch Academy are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday night in Louisville.


Portal, ECI renew rivalry in Twin City

The Portal Panthers are off to one of their best seasons in years but need a win in one of their last three games in order to have a shot at the state playoffs. Last week the Panthers held a 15-13 lead over Montgomery County but a key turnover before the end of the first half combined with being outscored 10-0 in the second half saw Portal fall 24-15 and drop to 0-1 in region play.

“The turning point in that game was late in the second half when we were leading 15-13 and drove down to the 10-yard line,” said coach Jason McEachin. 'We had a chance to go up by two scores and we threw an interception. I take the blame for that as we had time to maybe run a couple running plays and still stop the clock but that interception swung the momentum to them at the half and we just struggled to move the ball in the second half.”

A couple other turnovers proved costly as well. Portal was pinned deep and snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head and Montgomery County fell on it for a touchdown. The Panthers then had another interception on a drive in the fourth which pretty much sealed their fate. This week Portal will look to rebound against their rivals from just down the road as they take on the 2-4 ECI Bulldogs. ECI has a deceptive record as they have lost games to Metter, Dublin and Swainsboro as well as an overtime loss to Johnson County. The Bulldogs are coming off a 34-27-win last week to Jefferson County and McEachin is expecting a battle Friday in Twin City.

“They are a lot better than their record shows if you look at who they have played,” said McEachin. “They have played six really good football teams and they are still playing the style of football they have always played at ECI it’s just that they have run into some really good teams.”

The Bulldog offensive attack is led by quarterback Bryce Kearson who is head coach Chris Kearson's son. While running back P.J. Farnum is the Bulldogs' leading rusher. The Bulldogs come in averaging 23 points per game, but their defense has struggled this year as they are allowing over 31 points per contest.

“They are big and physical up front on offense,” said McEachin. 'We have tried to line things up on our defense to prepare for what they do. On offense we really have to limit our mistakes, especially in terms of turnovers. We have the capability of being an explosive offense, but we have to do a little better job of protecting the football and not coming up empty on drives. We feel like we can move the ball on offense against their defense. We have been right in there in all but maybe one game and hopefully we can battle and compete again this week.'

Portal and ECI are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday night in Twin City.