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Pinewood tops Bulloch at wire
Pinewood's Hunter Smith, right, comes down with his feet in bounds for a game-tying touchdown late in the first half over Bulloch Academy defender Ford Wildes during the first game of the Erk Russell Classic Saturday at Paulson Stadium - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

There are plenty of advantages in playing a game in a college football stadium. Saturday morning the Bulloch Academy Gators found out the hard way, there is one disadvantage. Trailing Pinewood by two points with five seconds left in the game the Gators Olen Anderson came out to try a game winning 26-yard field goal. The kick missed by a couple feet wide right and the Patriots rushed the field having pulled off a 30-28 victory. High school goalposts are five feet wider than college, and could have made the difference on Anderson’s kick.

“Hats off to Pinewood they were able to win a pretty exciting football game,” said Bulloch Academy coach Pat Collins. “I thought both teams played well, and it was a heck of a high school football game.”

The Gators and Patriots were playing the first of three games at the eighth annual Erk Russell Classic. Anyone coming expecting another Bulloch Academy blowout of Pinewood was mistaken, anyone coming expecting a good game was definitely entertained. The game saw three lead changes and two ties, and each team only had one punt. The lone Patriot punt almost cost them the game.

Leading 30-28 with 2:40 left in the game the Patriots snapped the ball well over the head of punter Lake Dasher.  Dasher retreated into the end zone, and was able to get off a good punt that the Gators recovered at midfield. Bulloch Academy marched downfield, eventually getting to the two yard line with 12 seconds remaining. Quarterback Fischer Oglesby scrambled to get yardage on first and goal, but was dropped for a loss to the nine yard line, and the Gators called time out preparing for the potential game winning field goal.

“The game came down to a few plays,” Collins said. “My heart breaks right now for two individual boys on our team that feel individually responsible for the loss.That is not the case, as we do everything as a team here at Bulloch Academy.”

The Patriots showed from the start that they were not the same team Bulloch Academy manhandled twice in 2018. The Gators beat the Patriots twice last year by a combined score of 91-16. This time around they answered every Bulloch Academy score, and outgained the Gators in total yards 354 to 267. Quarterback Mic Wasson was 17-19 for 173 yards and three touchdowns through the air as well.

“They came out and did some things we hadn’t seen on offense, and it caused us some problems,” Collins said. “They did a good job pass protecting, and hit us on a couple of big plays that really hurt us.”

The Gator defense stopped Pinewood on only two drives the entire game, but the first stop helped the Gator offense score the first points of the contest. After a missed BA field goal, the Patriots fumbled on their first possession of the game, and Will Aaron recovered at the Pinewood 20 yard line. 

The Gators turned the turnover into points as Jake Wasdin went into the end zone from two yards out. Anderson’s extra point was good and the Gators took a 7-0 lead with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

The Patriots answered in the second quarter finding success through the air. Wasson capped a nine play drive with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Lake Dasher. The extra point failed and the Gators led 7-6.

Bulloch Academy answered the Pinewood touchdown with a score themselves. On fourth down and eight from the Pinewood 24 yard line Collins elected to go for it, and Oglesby found a wide open Miller Pope across the middle for a Gator touchdown. Bulloch took a 14-6 lead with 4:24 left in the half.

The Patriots would add a score just before the end of the half. Once again Wasson moved the team downfield with short passes, and then on fourth down and long with 16 seconds left in the half Wasson threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Smith. The two point conversion run by David Friedberg tied the game 14-14 at the half.

The see saw battle continued in the second half. The Patriots took their opening drive and marched downfield, capping things off with a one-yard Wasson touchdown run. The two point conversion pass from Wasson to John Marshall Headrick made it 22-14 PCA with 10:13 left in the third.

The Gators would come right back as Rodney Hill took off down the far sideline, showcasing his speed with a 51-yard touchdown run. Hill finished the game with 111 yards rushing. The two point conversion by Hill would tie the game at 22-22 with 8:20 left in the third. 

The Patriots were able to hold serve on their next series. Wasson found Dasher across the middle for a seven yard touchdown pass. Dasher had 105 yards receiving in the game. Wasson added the two point conversion leaping high over the Gator defense into the end zone for a 30-22 lead.

The Gators were forced to punt for the first time on their next possession, but got the ball back after Pinewood failed on a fourth down attempt. The Gators had the ball on the Pinewood 32 and it looked as though running back Jake Wasdin was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but Wasdin kept his feet

 moving and broke free, going the distance for the touchdown. Oglesbly ended up being stopped about a foot from the goal line leaving the Gators down by two and it would also be the final points in a 30-28 loss.

“I feel like we will definitely learn from this experience,” Collins said. “I’m proud of our guys. We made some mistakes as coaches, and as people but this is only one step in a long season. I think we will come out of this game today a better football team, and that’s what our focus has got to be.

The Gators will be back in action this Friday night as they travel to Edmund Burke for a 7:30 start.

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