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BA on the road in tough, Top 5 matchup

No. 4 Bulloch (6-1, 1-1) at No. 2 Westfield (6-1, 1-1)
7:30 p.m., 850 AM

    Around this time in the high-school football season, coaches tend to cast a fleeting glance toward the post-season.
    While their main focus is on the job at hand, which is preparing their young men for tonight’s opponent, they also longingly look toward future, wondering if their team can make the playoffs and pondering who they might face.
    Such is the case with Bulloch Academy head coach Ronnie Hodges when his fourth-ranked Gators take on the second-ranked Westfield Hornets in Perry.
    “If we were to win out for the rest of the season,” he said, “we would be second in the region and host a first-round playoff game. There’s a lot riding on these last three games and it starts tonight with Westfield.”
    Both squads sport 6-1 records but, more importantly, are 1-1 in GISA Region 1-AAA play. Deerfield Windsor, the top team in Triple A, beat both the Gators (31-0) and the Hornets (28-7). The Knights are tied with Pinewood (5-2, 2-0) in the region standings. Those two square off tonight in Albany.
    The Gators will face Southland Academy and Pinewood during the last two weeks of the regular season but tonight’s showdown with the Hornets looms large.
    “They have always been a very good football team,” said Hodges. “They are well coached, fundamentally sound and won’t beat themselves.”
    Westfield runs the deceptive Wing-T offense for legendary coach Ronnie Jones.
    “He is the GISA guru of the Wing-T,” said Hodges. “If you want to talk the Wing-T football in the independent school ranks, then you go to see him. When defending this type offense, you can’t get caught up in all of the misdirection. Our guys have to stay home until the ball is declared.”
    Senior defensive end Jarret Humphries, who blocked two punts last week against Tiftarea, heads the BA defense. He has amassed 50 solo tackles and 31 assists. Other leaders include sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Howell (41, 37), junior linebacker Zach Sapp (36, 36), senior linebacker Loy Waters (29, 20) and senior cornerback Harrison Averitt (25, 11).
    The misdirection offense is headed by senior quarterback Evans Williams.
    “He makes them go,” said Hodges. “He is the big threat. I feel like we have to stop him in order to contain their offense.”
    Williams is not only the team’s leading rusher (310 yards and seven TDs) but he has passed for 535 yards and five scores. His favorite receiver is senior tight end Reid Hudson.
    “With the Wing-T, a tight end if very valuable in both blocking and receiving,” said Hodges. “Hudson runs very good routes and Williams is a good passer.”
    Big, athletic linemen are also something the Gators must face.
    “They are both big and strong on both sides of the ball,” said Hodges. “They don’t have the speed that they have in the past but they are very big up front.”
    Two classic ‘book end’ tackles (265-pound senior Sam Sexton and his 250-pound classmate Tommy Little) anchor both the offensive and defensive fronts. The pair helps the 4-4 defense to be very effective.
    “They depend on the big men up front to stop things at the first level,” said Hodges. “The linebackers are then free to roam.”
    Hodges and head line coach Brandavious Mann has been working hard during practices this week to give his undersized linemen the tools and guidance they need to help them succeed against the Hornets.
    “Monday and Wednesday we had good practices,” said Hodges. “Tuesday, we would have gotten beat 100-0 with a running clock in the second half. Even though we’ve had some lingering sickness, we can’t go into the game down and dejected. If you feel defeated before you even get off the bus, you might as well quit, turn around and go back home. Anything can happen.”
    With the quickness of the Gator offense, it usually happens when a team least expects it. Bulloch has been known this season for the quick-hitting, big play behind its stable of talented backs. Averitt leads the way with 795 yards and six scores while junior fullback Matt Sheppard has chipped in 548 and seven TDs. Waters, whose main runs come on option keepers, has 341 yards and eight touchdowns while senior Bailey Smith has 208 yards. Smith also has six catches for 140 yards.