Bulloch Academy’s dynamic duo of Lestonz Lewis and Ellis Lane combined for over 300 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead the Gators to a 42-20 homecoming win over GISA Region 1-AAA foe Bethesda Day School Friday night.
Lewis racked up 160 yards and two scores on 22 carries while Lane had 146 and a touchdown on 18 totes. While both ran hard and, at times, made their own yardage, they benefitted from exceptional blocking from the Gator offensive line and the wide receivers.
“Our guys did a good job up front with the oversized defense that Bethesda had,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “I was tickled to death with that.”
The tandem of left guard Conner Fordham and left tackle Asa Johnson pushed Bethesda’s gigantic Alonzo McKinney out of the way for the majority of the night, opening up huge off-tackle holes for Lewis and Lane.
The night was also a milestone for Lewis. The senior fullback eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on his first carry from scrimmage and stands at 1,158 for the season.
Gator quarterback Brandon Walker connected with wide receiver Jaylen Evans for two second-quarter scores which gave Bulloch a comfortable 20-6 halftime lead.
“I was pleased with the balance of our offense,” said Morgan.
But Bethesda (3-5 overall and 1-5 in the region) kept coming and refused to lie down in the second half, keeping the Gators on their toes with timely scores. Bulloch (6-2, 4-2) was finally able to pull away in the fourth.
The game was marred and lengthened by 20 penalties, 11 on Bethesda and nine on Bulloch, for 154 yards.
The Blazers scored on their second possession of the game, driving 88 yards on 13 plays and aided by two 15-yard penalties by the Gators. Brenden Carter hit David Thomas on an 18-yard pass play down to the BA 2 and then took it in himself for the opening score with 22.6 seconds left in the first quarter. A missed PAT left the score 6-0.
The Gator retaliated on their next possession. Lane started it off with a 37-yard kickoff return to the BA 48. Three plays later, he had a 20-yard burst down to the BDS 12. Two plays later, Lewis pounded in from four yards out. The Blazers blocked John Harden’s PAT attempt as the stalemate resumed at 6-6 with 9:57 left in the second quarter.
A Blazer fumble, recovered by Lane, set up the next BA score.
After heavy doses of Lane and Lewis, Bethesda was caught off guard when Walker dropped back and found a wide-open Evans in the left flat for a 31-yard touchdown pass. Harden’s kick was good, giving BA a 13-6 lead with 4:37 left.
Bulloch’s swarming kickoff team trapped the Blazers deep and the BA defense kept them there. A 15-yard punt gave the Gators the ball at the BDS 25. Seven plays later, Walker again found Evans, but this time on a quick-hitting slant pattern, for a five-yard TD. Harden’s kick gave Bulloch a 20-6 lead with 40 seconds left in the half. In the drive, Lane had runs of 20, eight and six yards and BA converted on a fourth-and-two situation.
Another Blazer fumble gave the Gators a chance to add more points just before the horn by Harden’s 39-yard field goal was wide left.
In the third, Bethesda stopped Bulloch’s opening possession and Lewis dropped back to punt. But the ball was snapped low and Lewis dropped to a knee to field it, making him down at the 27-yard line.
After the Gator defense threw BDS for losses on two plays, new quarterback Mason Marquis found Ray Ferguson on a 32-yard strike. Bulloch blocked the PAT, leaving the score at 20-12 at the 7:08 mark.
The Gators bounced back in remarkable fashion though. Starting at their own four-yard line, the Gators mounted a time consuming 14-play drive and scoring with just 55 seconds left in the third quarter. Lane bulled over from four yards out and Harden’s PAT gave BA a comfortable 27-12 advantage. In the drive, Lane ripped off a 24-yard run while Lewis had 14 and 13-yard bursts.
“That drive made me the happiest on the night,” said Morgan. “That was a huge drive to answer their score.”
But, just like lightning, the Blazers struck back when Mason found David Thomas in mismatch coverage and capitalized on it with a 67-yard bomb. The two-point conversion by Hakeem Coney cut the BA lead to seven, 27-20, at the 10:35 mark.
Then the Gators fired back.
After Evans’ 25-yard kickoff return, Lewis outraced the MDS secondary on 60-yard touchdown scamper just 18 seconds after Bethesda’s score. His two-point conversion put Bulloch up 35-20.
Evans helped turn the tide when he intercepted a Mason pass at the Gator 36. Six plays later, Walker turned the corner on an option keeper and raced 18-yard for the score. The big play on the drive was Harrison Averitt’s twisting, turning 30-yard run.