The Bulloch Academy Gators traveled north Friday night to take on the Hawks of The Heritage School in the opening round of the GISA playoffs. The Gators nearly played the role of spoiler, but the top-seeded Hawks came away with a 19-14 victory.
The Gator defense came ready to play as they held the Hawks to only six points in the first half. The Gators were able to contain the Hawks’ explosive offense, forcing several punts and a turnover on an interception by junior linebacker Jad Street. The only blemish of the half was an 8 yard touchdown run by Hawk quarterback Jacob Bryant.
The Gator offense again struggled to get anything going on the ground in the first half. The spark of the offense came from the legs and right arm of sophomore quarterback Don Aaron. Aaron was able to run for 39 yards and pass for 62 yards in the half. The Gators’ only threat to put points on the board in the half sailed wide right as senior kicker Sean O’Sullivan’s 38 yard field goal attempt with 34 seconds left was no good.
The second half was a different story entirely as the Gators took the opening kick and marched 80 yards to dent the scoreboard. The drive was capped off by a 20 yard touchdown strike from Aaron to senior wide receiver Davis Childs. The touchdown was set up by a 59 yard run by Aaron to push the Gators deep into Hawk territory. The touchdown gave the Gators a 7-6 lead early in the third quarter.
The Hawks struck back quickly on their next possession as Hawks running back Ryan Grant took a jet sweep 40 yards to put the Hawks up 13-7 with 6:29 to go in the third quarter. An interception on the Gators’ next possession gave the Hawks the ball at the Gator 15 yard line. Heritage wasted no time as Bryant completed a 5 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jay Macke with 11:18 to go in the game, putting the Hawks up 19-7.
The fiery Gators would not go away, however, as senior running back Tyce Lovett got going. Lovett broke several hard runs to help push the Gators deep into Hawk territory. The drive seemed to have stalled as the Gators faced a 4th and goal from the Hawks’ 12 yard line. But Aaron’s legs again saved him as he scrambled to his left and found senior wide receiver Nate Rice open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown pass to make the score 19-14 with 6:35 left in the game.
Bulloch had one last shot after a valiant 4th and inches stop with 42 seconds to go in the game. The Gators faced another fourth down, but a scramble by Aaron came up short and the Hawks came away with the victory.
“Our guys fought so hard. I’m so proud of the way they played,” said Gators Head Coach Terence Hennessy. “For our defense to hold on 4th and inches to give us one last shot. Our effort was amazing.
“I'm so proud of the way our guys played tonight. To lose key players to injury like we did and to continue to play as hard as we did. It's shows the leadership of our Seniors. We're going to miss them.”
The Gators finish the season 5-4-1 and 2-2 in conference play.