High School football in Bulloch County has been a lot like Tropical Storm Hermine this season: quick, idiosyncratic and a little disappointing.
About one and a half weeks ago Tropical Storm Hermine tip-toed through Bulloch County and flipping the local football schedule on its nose -- pushing Portal and Statesboro a day in the opposite directions and costing Southeast Bulloch and Bulloch Academy an entire game (questionably I believe we can say at this point).
Now after week three, the four county teams have combined to go 2-9-1 through the first three weeks of the GHSA season, being outscored 176-310. However, when you zoom out there are some asterisks to address in that total record. BA has had a nice season outside their loss to Our Lady of Mercy, going undefeated in GISA and tying the state champions in week one.
SEB has played only two games, one against a school double their classification in Richmond Hill and a team that might be one of the five best in the state of Georgia regardless of classification in Benedictine. Statesboro has held a lead into two fourth quarters and objectively outplayed Screven in the second half last week, while Portal’s defense has overachieved against much better offenses.
Either way, the records are what they are and week three only saw one win from the Bulloch County schools.
The Gators bounced back last week in a way they desperately needed after being drummed 30-6 by Our Lady of Mercy, a GHSA team that’s been outscored 50-6 in GHSA games. After their would-be rebound game against winless Westfield was canceled last week, BA got a shot at a much better opponent in Thomas Jefferson this week and more than took advantage.
BA took a whipping stick to the Jaguars 34-7 in a game that many would have thought would have been closer than expected. The only weakness TJ had really shown in the three games beforehand was their defense, but it was exposed in a hurry as BA got back to doing what they do best: running the football.
Running back Jake Mock had another monster game last Friday, going for 176 yards on just 11 carries with three touchdown runs of 64, 26 and 43 yards. The new spread offense may not have found the passing touch it wanted, but the Gators can still run the ball at a great clip. The defense has only allowed 9.3 points a game, making for a recipe that can win a lot of games the rest of the year for BA.
The Blue Devil’s have been a hard team to gage in 2016. Despite being 0-3, Statesboro has taken a one-point lead into the fourth quarter twice despite being vastly outplayed and
outgained in both of those games, and now looked better than they’ve been in possibly two years against Screven County.
After being blown out of the water in the first half by the Gamecocks 28-7, Statesboro was faced with an even bigger dilemma when quarterback Davis Wiggins went out of the game with a collarbone injury. The Blue Devil’s were forced into the wildcat offense with Tupac Lanier at the helm, which resulted in the best offensive half of football points wise since Oct. 3 2015 against Coffee County.
The “Wildpac” averaged 5.8 yards a play on 16 plays in the second half, as Statesboro would outscore Screven 14-7 to end the game. Whether or not the success was tied into the Gamecocks preparedness for the Wildpac is remained to be seen, or if Statesboro will stick to that offense or try something else for the remainder of the season as it appears Wiggins will not be returning anytime soon.
Much like Bulloch Academy, SEB really needed a positive rebound after being beat by Richmond Hill 35-13 in week one. They had a perfect game set up against the Bradwell Institute, who hasn’t won a game since Lebron James was a member of the Miami Heat, but it, along with many others, was wiped out by Tropical Storm Hermine.
Instead, they had to look to rebound against a buzzsaw in Benedictine which ended in a 33-6 loss. The loss wasn’t really surprising though, and it’s not because SEB is a bad team either. Benedictine has two D-1 players and has allowed only a touchdown per game on defense -- they’re simply a superior team and will be the best team SEB plays all year.
While it certainly wasn’t a great game for the SEB defense allowing 10.3 yards per play, the Yellow Jackets were able to run the ball fairly effectively at 5.4 yards a carry. Had SEB not turned the ball over twice and maybe seen more consistency passing, the Jackets could have easily scored 20 or more points against Benedictine.
Coach Matt Smith has his work cut out for him in 2016 with his Portal squad. In three games this season, Portal has been outscored 29-100 and none of the games have been really close. You can make an argument the opening game against Treutlen County was close and five Panther turnovers really caused the deficit -- but five turnovers aren’t anything to hang your hat on.
Portal fell to Jenkins County last Friday 28-7 in a game where the Panther offense seemed to regress from what looked like progress last week against powerhouse Emanuel County Institute. Portal scored zero offensive points, even after having a drive in the second-half start at the JC two yard-line the Panthers failed to punch a score in.
The only score came off a recovered fumble in the Jenkins County endzone, as the defense has been the mere redeeming factor for Portal this early season. The Panthers did the most the could to contain the triple-option rushing attack of Jenkins, which has been very good through three games, but there’s only so much a defense can do when your offense consistently puts you in bad field position.