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Gators gearing up
BA Football
Bulloch Academy quarterback Fischer Oglesby reaches for the pylon while scoring in the third quarter against Pinewood Christian during last season's Erk Russell Classic at Paulson Stadium.

The Bulloch Academy Gators are entering their first year under head coach Steve Pennington. Pennington will be the Gators third head coach since 2017, and will see a couple of firsts in the Gators 2020 schedule.

Bulloch Academy is coming off a 7-4 record in 2019 where they went 3-2 in region play, and finished in second place. The Gators were knocked out in the first round of the GISA AAA playoffs as they fell to Tiftarea 17-14.

This year the Gators open up with their first ever GHSA opponents. Bulloch Academy has played other GHSA opponents in the preseason, but this year their first two games will come against a pair of teams that advanced to the GHSA state playoffs a year ago. 

August 21 vs Savannah Country Day: The Gators open up against Savannah Country Day, with the Hornets becoming their first ever GHSA opponent. The Hornets are coming off a perfect 10-0 regular season, before they eventually got upset in the first round of the state playoffs by Savannah Christian. The Hornets ended the regular season ranked ninth in the state. The good news for the Gators is they should have a packed house at home for this one.

August 28 at Calvary Day: The Gators go from one of the toughest teams in region 3-A to arguably the one with the most success over the past 10-15 years in Calvary Day. The Crusaders were 7-4 last season - and like the Hornets - lost in the opening round of the state playoffs to Savannah Christian. The bad news for this game is it will be on the road, and the Cavalier fans are notoriously tough on their opponents.

September 4 vs Tiftarea: The last time these two teams met was in the opening round of the 2019 state playoffs as the Gators were knocked off 17-14 in a defensive battle at Gator Alley. The Panthers finished the 2019 season with a record of 8-4, and actually went on to advance to the state semifinals before falling to the eventual state champs John Milledge Academy 42-14.

September 18 at John Milledge Academy:There is a potential for the Gators to start the season 0-4. Their schedule is heavily front loaded, and the toughest test of all could come September 18th at John Milledge. The Trojans are the defending GISA AAA state champions and finished the 2019 season with a perfect record of 13-0, including a 62-19 victory over Valwood in the state title game. 

October 2 vs Memorial Day: The good news for the Gators is after a grueling start to their season, they get a week off before taking on the Matadors in Gator Alley. Last season the Gators knocked off Memorial Day 43-6 in Statesboro. The usually powerful Matadors struggled to a 3-9 record last season, and after winning a first round game against Westfield by forfeit, they lost in the second round to Gatewood 60-12.

October 9 vs. Trinity Christian: The Gators had no problems with Trinity a year ago, as they knocked off the Crusaders 49-14 at Gator Alley. Trinity finished last in the region in 2019 with an overall record of 3-7.

October 16 vs, Frederica Academy: Frederica was the 2018 state AAA champion, but struggled a bit in 2019. The Knights were 4-6 and were beaten by Southland Academy 22-6 in the opening round of the GISA playoffs. The Gators knocked off Frederica 24-7 at St. Simons last year in their regular season finale.

October 23rd at Robert Toombs: It’s been a few years since the Gators and the Crusaders have met on the football field. The last time these two teams played was in 2017 as the Gators won 32-28. Robert Toombs is coming off a 3-8 season, and lost in the opening round of the state AA playoffs 64-26 to Terrell Academy.

October 30th at St. Andrews: The Gators and the Lions haven’t met since 2013. The Gators knocked off St. Andrews 52-35 at home to open the 2013 season. The Lions went 5-5 in 2019, and were knocked off in the opening round of the AA playoffs 20-3 by Briarwood.

November 6 vs. Pinewood: The Gators have opened the season the past two years with Pinewood. This year, the two close out the season in what could be a region championship matchup. In 2018 the Gators swept the Patriots in a pair of games. Last year Pinewood returned the favor, beating Bulloch Academy 30-28 in the Erk Russell Classic, and then winning 32-14 in Bellville. 

The Gators return a good number of starters from last year’s team and should be able to compete for the region title. The big question will be how the Gators are able to start the season. If they are able to withstand the early gauntlet then coach Pennington could add another trip to the state playoffs under his belt. He has already helped two of the four schools in Bulloch County to the postseason.