The Bulloch Academy Gators sent a statement out to anyone who thought they couldn’t beat a member of the GHSA. That statement reverberated from Statesboro to Savannah with a 32-2 thrashing Savannah Country Day, the defending champions from Region 3-A private.
Coaching in his first game with the Gators, Steve Pennington was not only impressed with his team’s effort, but the focus they showed with all that has been going around.
“With the COVID pandemic, and all that has been happening I feel like we really focused and persevered,” said Pennington. “We installed a lot of new things in our staff’s first year here, and it was very gratifying to see the way the team responded.”
The Hornets were missing a few important players on their front line, but returned one of the Coastal Empire’s top quarterbacks in Barry Kleinpeter, running back Davion Davis, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year and receivers Kenny Odum and Erik Brown who combined for 1,400 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
“I know they got hit pretty hard up front,” Pennignton said. “But these guys have plenty of talent, and were still the defending region champs. I feel like Savannah Country Day will still prove to be a good team this year. They have a lot of weapons, but I feel like we limited their big plays, and we kept them in front of us.”
The Gators came out and immediately showed they were ready for the challenge. Rodeny Hill took the opening kickoff 40 yards into Hornet territory. Tyler Willoughby then capped off an eight play scoring drive with a 1-yard keeper for a 6-0 Gator lead.
The rest of the quarter was a combination of Country Day, and Bulloch Academy big plays that were called back for penalties. The two teams combined for 10 penalties in the first half, with at least six of them nullifying gains of over 20 yards. Notably Rodney Hill had an impressive 50-yard touchdown brought back for a hold.
The Gator offense moved downfield in the second quarter, and finally capitalized as Kam Harrison went in from 14 yards out, as the Gators opened up a 13-0 lead. The defense helped make that lead hold up with a few nice open field tackles by Bryson Scott and Garrison Lee, among others.
The second half saw much of the same carry over from the first half. The Hornets had issues all game long with the snaps out of the shotgun being on the ground. The Gators took advantage with Miller Pope and Cash Vickery each coming up with recoveries.
The wildest play may have come as quarterback Kleinpeter hit Odum for a first down at the Hornet 31-yard line. Odum attempted to cut back across the field, but ended up losing about 15 yards, from there he only made things worse by trying to go back across the field, and was eventually taken down in the end zone by Bryson Scott for a safety.
Willoughby continued his solid night by going in from 10-yards out on a midline option keeper, to extend the lead to 22-0 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
Big things are expected out of senior kicker Olen Anderson, and he produced Thursday night. Anderson kicked his first five kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, and then put his name into the Gator record books with a 49-yard field goal that cleared the uprights with plenty of room to spare.
The Hornets finally got on the board with a safety themselves, but in the fourth Rodney Hill put the game on ice showing speed, power and elusiveness with a 31-yard touchdown run for the final points of the game.
“We are playing a lot of backs and receivers,” Penninton said. “We feel any of them can get the job done. On a hot humid night, we needed as many as we could get. I felt like our offensive line established a physicality from the start of the game, and opened up a lot of holes.”
“We still have a lot of things to work on, but this was a solid effort,” Pennington said. “Now it’s time to clean up some of the aerea in which we struggled, and get ready for Calvary Day next Friday.”