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Gator Football ready for another big season
Rodney Hill
Bulloch Academy running back Rodney Hill looks for open space during a 2020 game against Calvary Day in Savannah. The Gators are looking for another strong season after a state quarterfinal showing last fall.

The Bulloch Academy Gators finished the 2020 season with a record of 7-3 and advanced to the state playoffs where they lost a heartbreaker to Frederica 34-27 at Gator Alley

2020 was the first season with the Gators for head coach Steven Pennington who was able to help Bulloch Academy win seven of their first eight games despite getting a late start due to COVID related issues. Pennington is hoping with a full season with BA under his belt and a traditional off season the Gators can reach high goals this year.

“We really had to do a lot of things on the fly last year,” said Pennington. “Having to stop and start throughout the year and missing so much of the pre-season had us playing catch up all season. I feel like we had a successful season in 2020 but this time around things are much calmer than they were last year.”

According to Pennington the Gators have made significant gains in the weight room as well as building strength and stamina. Those improvements will be important as the Gators have two practice games early in August before officially getting the season under way August 20 at Savannah Country Day.

The Gators opened a lot of eyes knocking off a member of the GHSA with a 32-2 win at home against the Hornets who will be looking for payback with a familiar face heading up the program this year.

“Savannah Country Day hired former Georgia Southern linebacker John Mohring and we really don’t know what to expect from them this year,” said Pennington. “They did advance to the GHSA playoffs last season and have a really good quarterback returning so we know we will have our hands full at their place.”

The Gators will host their home opener August 27 as Calvary Day comes to call. The Cavaliers made it to the Class-A Private semifinals last season before falling to Trinity Sharpsburg. Calvary beat BA 48-8 in what Pennington called an important game for the Gators.

“It’s never good to lose, but losing that game humbled us and showed us what we needed to work on,” said Pennington. “They man handled us and showed us that we have to elevate our level of play in order to compete with teams like that. Calvary usually has a few Division-1 players on their team and those kinds of games show you what areas you need to work on before you get into region play.”

Up next the Gators travel to Tifton to play Tiftarea Sept. 3, a team they beat 38-32 in Statesboro last year. Next comes a bye week followed by a visit from last year’s state champs in the John Milledge Academy Trojans.

“Our game last year with John Milledge was cancelled due to COVID issues,” said Pennington. “They won the state last year and had a couple Division-1 players. We know they will be a tall task, but it is also a great opportunity for our team and thankfully we will get that game at home. Tiftarea took us down to the wire last year and they made it to the state semifinals so that should be a good test for us as well.”

The Gators have another bye week on Sept. 24 before hosting Memorial on Oct. 1. Region matchups home against Trinity (Oct. 8) and at Frederica (Oct. 15) follow that. The Gators wrap their up non-region schedule by hosting Robert Toombs Oct. 22.

“I like that we have two region games sandwiched between our two non-region games,” said Pennington. “Trinity has a new coach so we aren’t really sure what we will see out of them, but we will have a few games to look at by then. Frederica played in the state championship, and I know they have a lot of talented players returning.”

The Gators wrap up the season with a senior night matchup on Oct. 29 at home against St. Andrews, whom they beat 35-0 last year. The regular season concludes in a rematch of last year's 21-14 loss in Gator Alley as they head to Pinewood for a Nov. 5 matchup with the Patriots.

“St. Andrews is another team that will have a new head coach,” said Pennington. “We know what to expect from Pinewood and that is a physical athletic team that made it to the semifinals in the state last year. They have a lot of guys back including their quarterback and it should be another battle for us.”