The Bulloch Academy Gators (7-3) enter the GISA state playoffs Friday night as they host Tiftarea (6-3) in the opening round. The Gators managed to assure themselves of a home playoff game by knocking off last year’s state champs Fredrica 24-7 on the road in St. Simons last Friday night.
“It was a complete effort from offense, defense and special teams,” said Bulloch Academy coach Pat Collins. “Olen Anderson did a great job kicking the ball, our defense played tremendous from their first drive throughout the rest of the game, allowing only 29 yards rushing on 22 carries. Offensively our line blocked well and our backs ran the ball well. Rodney Hill had over 200 yards rushing, and we also had touchdown runs from Jake Wasdin and Cam Harrison.”
The win gave the Gators the number two seed in this week’s state tournament, as they go up against the 6-3 Panthers of Tiftarea. Tiftarea finished in a three way tie for second, but lost the final game of the regular season in an upset to Southland Academy, giving them the third seed out of region three.
“Tiftarea is a unique number three seed coming out of their region,” Collins said. “I would say they are probably one of the top five teams in the state. They were the second seed for most of the year, but got upset in the final game of the season 14-7 to Southland, and ended up as the three seed. They have tremendous athletes and are diverse schemes on offense, and are very good on defense.”
“They are coached by Eric Soliday,” Collins said. “Eric Soliday is like I am, a retired GHSA coach and teacher. Coach Soliday has won a couple state championships when he was coaching at Americus, so he has been around the block a time or two.”
The Gators have had much of their success this season due to a high scoring offense. Bulloch Academy is averaging 39 points per game this year, while giving up only 14.5 points per game. The Panthers have relied on their defense for most of their success, and come into the game giving up just over 12 points per contest. Tiftarea is averaging 25 points per game on offense.
Bulloch Academy and Tiftarea have not played since 2013 when the Panthers defeated the Gators 29-20 in Statesboro. The Gators and Panthers have one common opponent on their schedule, as they both beat Westfield 56-0 this year.
The Gators and Panthers are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff in Statesboro. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students. GISA athletic passes are not valid for state playoff games.