There were plenty of firsts Saturday morning as the Bulloch Academy Gators took on Pinewood in the opening game of the seventh annual Erk Russell Classic, but the most important one was, it was the Gators first win of the season, as they knocked off the Patriots 42-8.
Other firsts included the Gators and Patriots being the first two GISA teams to play in the Erk Russell Classic, the first game as head coach for the Gator’s Pat Collins, and the first time Bulloch Academy had ever played a football game on a Saturday morning.
“I must admit this was an unusual day,” Collins said. “This was a total team effort here today, the players did a great job, our coaching staff was tremendous, and I’d like to thank our fans for coming out here and supporting us at this unique event.”
The Gators were playing without the services of their biggest offensive weapon as quarterback Don Aaron hurt his hamstring in last weeks scrimmage game. Portal transfer Fisher Oglesby filled in admirably going 3-3 through the air and ran the offense well, including a nice 13 yard touchdown run.
“Fisher did exactly what we needed him to do,” Collins said. “He managed the situation well, and made the plays we asked of him, and he did a solid job running our offense.”
Aaron was able to come into the game for two plays in the third quarter. One running play, and another ended up being a nine yard touchdown strike to his brother Will.
“I hated it for Don, and his family, to have been injured and missed this game that meant so much to him,’’ Collins sid. “I’m happy we were able to get him in for a couple of low risk plays. I told our lineman that they better block for him, and he made the most of it with the touchdown to Will.”
Collins also was quick to hand over much of the credit to his coordinators and coaching staff.
“I feel like the kids are really catching on to coach Bill Shaver’s offense,” Collins said. I’m proud of what he and his staff did today. I’m also happy with the way coach Ronnie Hodges and his staff executed the defense.”
The Gators were able to strike early. Following a Pinewood turnover that was recovered by Jake Nelson, freshman running back Rodney Hill took a handoff and spun out out two tackles, shook off a couple more and sprinted 31 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 Gator lead.
Bulloch Academy then started riding the back of Ty Mingle. Mingle scored on a three yard touchdown run with 2:49 left in the first quarter, and then he tacked on a four yard score - part of a 157 yard effort - to give the Gators a 21-0 halftime lead.
“It starts out front with our offensive line,” Collins said. “They gave our backs opportunities to have big games. Credit to Ty Mingle as well for making the most of his opportunities.”
In the third quarter Oglesby kept the ball on an option left, and outraced the Patriot defense, diving to the pylon at the goal line for the touchdown, and a 28-0 Gator lead.
Still in the third, after a 40 yard interception by Brock Sapp, Mingle added his third score of the game, this time dragging defenders in after a 20 yard run for a 34-0 Gator lead. The Aaron to Aaron combo pushed the Gator lead to 40-0 at the end of the fourth.
The fourth quarter brought another first, as the game was played with a running clock with the mercy rule in effect. Pinewood started the quarter with their only score of the ballgame, a 42-yard pass from Mic Wasson to Lake Dasher. The two point conversion was run in by Garlon Rogers to cut the lead to 40-8.
The Gators were forced to punt only one time in the entire game, and it proved costly for the Patriots. Nate Rice boomed a 53 yard punt down to the Pinewood five yard line. On the very next play from scrimmage the snap sailed over the head of Wasson, who fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety and a final score of 42-8.
The Gators will play their home opener as they host Edmund Burke at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Gator Alley.