Rance Gillespie caught some grief from Georgia Southern fans during his years as offensive coordinator under Chris Hatcher and then under Tyson Summers. Friday night he returned to Bulloch County as the head coach of Brookstone and his offense did enough to outscore the top ranked offense in GIAA as they knocked off Bulloch Academy, 24-22.
The Gators came in with a record of 11-0 and had only trailed once the entire season. Friday they trailed 21-15 with just over eight minutes left in the game and were driving into Brookstone territory when Brennan Perossa reeled off an impressive 15-yard run to the Cougar 38-yard line. Perossa hit the ground on his backside and the ball came loose. After some discussion the referees ruled it a fumble which was recovered by Brookstone. They would then go on a five-minute drive capped off by a 23-yard field goal by Jimmy Hunter pretty much sealing the victory for the Cougars.
“When you get this far all the teams are good and you have to have things go your way,” said Bulloch Academy coach Aaron Phillips. “They were able to pick up a pair of fourth and long plays where things fell their way. We had a tough call go against us on a fumble, too, but hats off to Brookstone. They played a good game and unfortunately, we came up a couple points short tonight.”
The Gators were able to come down and score with just over a minute to play in the game, but failed on an onside kick and Brookstone was able to run out the clock and end the Gators season after their first trip back to the state Final-4 since 2008.
“It’s been an unbelievable season and I am so proud of these coaches and players,” Phillips said. “Nobody really gave us a chance this year and we were within a couple points of going to the state championship. This one will sting but I’m proud of the team and this community for standing behind us.”
Bulloch Academy started the game with an impressive 10-play scoring drive which took up just over seven minutes off the clock and was capped off with an 10-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Smart. The extra point failed and it was 6-0 Gators.
Brookstone was able to convert on 4 of 5 fourth down attempts including a key fourth and 13 from the Gator 35-yard line as quarterback Brooks Roney hit receiver Swift Branch to the Gator 18-yard line. They’d cap their scoring drive with a seven-yard touchdown by Gray Jones for a 7-6 lead.
Bulloch Academy added a score before the end of the first half as Danye Garvin took off down the far sidelines for a 37-yard touchdown. The point after by Hunter Davis Pressley gave Bulloch Academy a 13-7 lead at halftime.
Bulloch Academy struggled on fourth down conversions and failed to capitalize on a fourth and three from the Brookstone 45 as they tuned the ball over. Brookstone converted on another fourth and 13 on their ensuing drive. Roney’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, went through a Gator defender’s hands and was caught by Chris Vickerson who got ahead to the B.A. 25-yard line for a first down. Jones then went in from seven yards away for a 21-13 lead.
Bulloch Academy marched right back downfield on a 30-yard run by Aaron and a 15-yard run by Reid Clifton. They’d get inside the Brookstone 10-yard line and would go for it on a fourth and five from the six yard line, but the pass from Ben Aaron to Smart fell incomplete.
On the very next play from scrimmage Roney fumbled the ball in the end zone and the Gators were awarded a safety after Brookstone recovered and cut the lead to 21-15.