The Bulloch Academy Gators showed little rust from a week off as they opened the state playoffs last Friday with a 35-0 win over George Walton in the GIAA state 4-A quarterfinals to improve to 11-0 on the season.
The Gators were able to get a couple key players back and played a complete game which head coach Aaron Phillips hopes carry over into this week’s semifinal matchup with Brookstone.
“We had a couple penalties that may have kept some points off the scoreboard but I thought we did what we wanted to offensively,” Phillips said. “We won the battle up front on both sides of the ball. We were able to get the ball to our athletes in space and that all starts with quarterback Ben Aaron playing another great game. We hope we can continue to do that.”
After having little trouble in their first seven games the Gators had to overcome a little adversity in two of their last four games. Frederica came back to tie the game late in the third quarter before the Gators pulled away in the fourth. Pinewood lived up to the rivalry in the last regular season game in the only game this year decided by less than 14 points.
“We had to play a few of those games with our top two running backs as far as yards and touchdowns out for significant time,” Phillips said. Getting Isaiah Smart and Reid Clifton back is huge because they accounted for 18 touchdowns between them before they went out. The blessing in disguise was we really built some depth with them out and now when you can play about 25 guys on a Friday night without a huge drop off it shows how deep we are. Having those home run threats who can hit at any time is huge for us.”
The Gators advance to the state Final-4 for the first time in 15 years. The competition continues to increase as the Gators host 7-4 Brookstone Friday night. The Cougars are coached by former Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Rance Gillespie who brings a similar style to the high school front as he did while at Georgia Southern.
“Coach Gillespie has a wealth of knowledge and has coached on the high school and collegiate level,” Phillips said. “They are primarily a zone one-back team. They have a really good running back in Lane Cannon who averages over 100 yards per game and have a quarterback in Brooks Roney who has thrown for 1,674 yards and nine touchdowns. They are really big up front and average about 250 pounds a piece kind of like we do. I told the team every week the competition is going to get better and better and that is the case this week.”
The Gators have played primarily running teams this year and Phillips knows it may be a little adjustment with the offense the Cougars bring. He also knows the option attack the Gators bring to the table is touch to adjust to as well.
“I think any time you play a team like ours and have only three days to prepare it’s tough,” Phillips said. “They also have to drive five hours across the state and have to deal with a loud home crowd which I expect we will have Friday. I think that is a big advantage to us. It is tough for them to replicate what we do in practice and they won’t understand how fast it is. To teach that to a high school kid in three days is asking a lot and I feel confident about our chances Friday night.”
Bulloch Academy and Brookstone are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday at Gator Alley.