The Bulloch Academy Gators already have five games in the books, but more than half of their schedule is still in front of them.
Thanks to some unique scheduling, the Gators (3-2) are embarking on an 11-game slate this season instead of the traditional 10 contests. Adding to the extra lifting is the fact that Bulloch — which began its season Aug. 22 — doesn’t have an off week.
While Bulloch certainly seems to have found the offense that vanished midway through last season’s 3-7 campaign, there is still the matter of getting through the long grind.
“Without having a bye week, we need to change things up a little bit,” Bulloch coach Terence Hennessy said. “In the next couple of weeks, we’ll probably be dialing it back on the contact.”
The Gators will try to keep their legs fresh with the limited full contact practices, but the makeup of their schedule will also prevent them from scheduling too many light days.
The final four games make up the entirety of the Gators’ Region 2-AAA schedule and will ultimately decide whether or not Bulloch can return to the state playoffs after missing out last year.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Hennessy said. “I learned that coaching at Edmund Burke last year. We need to be prepared for each game, but you also can’t afford to be leg-weary late in the year when you’re playing your most important games.”
A lack of bye weeks also means that any injury is subject to missed playing time.
After a pair of relatively easy wins to start the season, the Gators’ competition has ticked up. Along with the tougher opponents have come more bumps and bruises.
Even more troubling is that the injuries have focused on a specific area of the roster.
“We’re going into this week with five offensive linemen,” Hennessy said. “Overall, I think we’re ok. Our skill positions are healthy for the most part. But we’re razor-thin on the line. That really affects what we can do and we hope to get a few of those guys back before region play.”
The Gators’ relentless schedule only gets tougher this week as they travel to Perry to take on defending Class AAA state champion Westfield. Playing as region rivals last season, the Hornets blasted Bulloch Academy by a score of 41-0.
Friday’s game will mark the third defending state champ that the Gators have played in the last four weeks. Robert Toombs barely nipped the Gators in a 43-34 shootout on Sept. 5 and Memorial Day scored a 39-7 win over Bulloch last week.
Losses are never ideal, but the Gators have taken some positives out of those setbacks that will hopefully get them to where they want to be at the end of their 11-week journey.
“I think we played well at times against those good teams,” Hennessy said. “We definitely had spots where our guys saw that they can play with teams that are on a state championship level, and we’ll see that again this week.
“Looking ahead to region play, there are more teams we’ll face that are more on our level. We want to take what we’re doing early in the season, learn from it, and get ready to do well in region play.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.