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Gators cruise to first win of season
BA Football
Bulloch Academy's Reid Clifton (10) breaks loose on a long kick return during the Gators' dominant 49-0 victory over Memorial Day on Friday night at Gator Alley.

In bullfighting, matadors are at their greatest danger as the bull approaches. Arenas typically have infirmaries on site for those competitors who find themselves on the wrong end off the horn of the bull.

Where bullfighting is popular, there are even surgeons who specialize in treating common injuries sustained by matadors and priests are often on hand in case of an emergency to offer what is commonly known as Last Rites as needed.

While the Memorial Day Matadors were not fighting actual bulls on Friday night, they did find themselves in need of one of those special surgeons as the Bulloch Academy Gators controlled all facets of their contest en route to a 49-0 victory.

Led by sophomore quarterback Ben Aaron and sophomore running back Isaiah Smart, both filling in for the regular starters who were unable to go Friday night, the Gators (1-4) marched 66 yards on the first five plays of the game. Smart struck the first blow against the Matadors’ defense with a 12-yard run to put the Gators up 6-0.

Following a muffed snap on an attempted punt by Memorial Day, the Gators were able to get another hit against the Matadors, this time with Aaron capping off the 35-yard drive with a one-yard run. A Johnnie Hood extra point made it 13-0 just five minutes in to the game.

Smart struck again on Bulloch Academy’s third possession, this time on a 31-yard dash for the second of his four touchdowns on the night to put the Gators ahead 20-0.

While the offense was able to move the ball at will, the Gators’ defense was equally impressive, holding the Matadors to negative two yards in the first quarter, and -27 yards in the first half.

“We talked about domination (at practice),” said Head Coach Steve Pennington. “But speaking it is one thing and going out and doing it is another. Tonight we were able to do that.”

Smart added a seven-yard socre and a 23 yard run early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 33-0. Aaron added a 2-yard score and Wesley Joyce relieved Aaron and added a seven-yard touchdown run of his own to close out the half.

Between Smart’s touchdowns and those of the quarterbacks, the Gators’ defense got in on the scoring. Facing a third and 22, the Gator defense was able to pressure the Memorial Day quarterback and junior defensive end Tyler Padgett sacked him in the end zone for a safety.

In total, the Gators offense amassed 242 yards in the first half and scored touchdownson each of their seven possessions. Smart ended the night with 153 yards on only 7 carries, averaging almost 22 yards per carry.

Pennington said the performance he saw from his team Friday was what he’d been seeing in practice for the previous two weeks. “Our players were focused every day in practice and our players came with great intensity every day and it showed tonight.”

A light rain started to fall as the second half started and with the Gators having such a commanding lead, a running clock was in effect, meaning the only time the clock stopped was for injuries and penalties.

Even with the running clock and some of their younger players getting in to the game, the Gators were able to continue to control the game and get some younger players some experience playing under the lights on a Friday night.

While the Gators entered the game 0-4, Pennington knew the experience of playing four strong schools to start the seaon would start to show benefits as the season progressed.

“As I’ve mentioned before, the four losses we took against four tough schools would serve us well going forward. We played just as hard tonight as we did against those teams, and because we did, it allowed us to control the ball game.”

The Gators host Trinity Christian next week in Bulloch Academy’s homecoming contest