Bulloch Academy begins its eight-game region schedule tonight, traveling 3 ½ hours to south Georgia to face the Tiftarea Panthers.
The Chula squad has started the season with two losses, 20-17 to Westwood and 25-21 to Valwood, and the Panthers are hungry for a victory.
“Tiftarea’s 0-2 start is very deceiving,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “They have played two very good football teams and lost by a total of seven points. The injury bug hit them early too but I hear now that they are healthy.”
Tiftarea runs a wide-open offense and will line up in anything from a two tight-end wishbone to a five-wide shotgun.
“They have a lot of weapons on offense,” said Morgan. “They may have as many as 10 different people touch the football. It has made it difficult to prepare for them because we couldn’t key on any one thing or any one player.”
Quarterback Wes Carter is Tiftarea’s main threat.
“He is definitely the most dangerous offensive player we have faced this season,” said Morgan. “He has a great arm, runs very well and is faster than anyone we’ve seen. But, the number one thing is that he has a much better supporting cast. We’ve got to play sound, fundamental football on defense to beat this bunch.”
Leading the BA defensive charge is smart and hard-hitting linebacker James Brack, who tops the list with 13 individual tackles and 12 assists. Defensive end Chris Young is second with 11 solos and eight assists. Other head-hunting Gators are cornerback Harrison Averitt (nine, six), linebacker Loy Waters (eight, 10) and defensive tackle Caleb Bohannon (eight, six).
“We have to stand our ground, read our keys and be a little more aggressive than we have been,” said Morgan.
On offense, Bulloch (2-0) has racked up a lot of yards and points in their first two games. The Gators have amassed 787 yards rushing and 77 yards passing while scoring 99 points.
Fullback Lestonz Lewis leads the high-flying option offense with 277 yards and three scores on just 19 carries. Wingback Ellis Lane is 15-for-194 with two scores and quarterback Brandon Walker had 158 yards on nine carries and one touchdown.
Through the air, Walker is 5-of-8 for 77 yards and three TD passes. His favorite target is Lane, who has three catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
“Being 2-0 sure beats the alternative,” said Morgan. “Everybody seems excited. We had a good week of practice and we’re getting better each week.”
One of the areas that the Gators improved upon last week was the kicking game. John Harden, who had a horrendous game in the first week of the season, was golden against Robert Toombs.
He hit five PATs, had six touchbacks on kickoffs (including a 65-yarder) and drilled a 48-yard field goal which broke a 27-year old record. One of the highlights of the week was when the former record-holder, Wes Chester, emailed Morgan.
“Wes (a 1984 graduate) emailed me a letter to read to John and the entire team,” said Morgan. “He talked about the night he set the record (the 1983 state championship game against Baker Academy), congratulated John for breaking the record and gave some uplifting words of wisdom. His letter seemed to fire them up that day at practice. Wes is a class act to do something like that. There are not many people in this world who truly remember where they came from. He was not afraid to show it to a bunch of kids.”
The game can be heard live on ESPN 850 AM with Chandler Dennard and Tim Slater. The pair takes the air at 7:15 p.m.