High-school homecomings conjure up memories of dress-up days, practicing for class skits, nightly practical jokes, voting for the king and queen, the pep rally and the dance.
But, for the Bulloch Academy Gators, there’s an important GISA Region 1-AAA football game in there somewhere.
“We don’t have a football game because it’s homecoming,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “We have homecoming because there’s a football game. It’s actually homecoming for us in more ways than one. It’s been four weeks since we’ve played on our own field.”
The main attraction tonight in the Alley will be the battle between the Gators (5-2 overall and 3-2 in the region) and the athletic and ever-dangerous Bethesda Blazers (3-4, 1-4).
“There are a lot of similarities between Bethesda and Sherwood (last week’s opponent),” said Morgan. “Both have size, speed and big-play ability.”
Quarterback Brenden Carter and fullback Hakeem Coney are the Blazer stars in Bethesda’s multi-formation offense.
“Both are very good athletes,” said Morgan. “But they are still freshmen. We are going to try to force them to make freshmen mistakes.”
According to Morgan, the Blazers and the Gators have similar offensive tastes.
“They are just like we are,” he said. “They line up in the Flex, Trips, a little bit of Wing-T and may even get into some Wishbone. But, they run the same plays out of all of the formations.”
Division I-prospect Alonzo McKinney heads up the offensive line and Bethesda will definitely run behind the 6-6, 290-pound behemoth.
“He is the cornerstone of the line on both offense and defense,” said Morgan. “He’s one of the better linemen in the whole state. He poses a big challenge on both sides of the ball.”
The Bulloch defense will work hard to try to best the McKinney and the Blazers.
“Last week was a coming-out party for our defense,” said Morgan. “We’ve been so close all year at putting together a full four quarters on defense. This past Friday, we finally did it.”
Against Sherwood, the Gators gave up just 111 yards of total offense and had some terrific third-and-fourth down stands in Bulloch’s 2-0 win in Albany.
Linebackers James Brack and Loy Waters headline the BA defense. Brack has 55 individual tackles and 38 assists while Waters has 38 solos and 41 assists. Other leaders include defensive tackle Caleb Bohannon (28, 33), safety Ellis Lane (25, 20) and defensive tackle Jonathan Lumpkin (23, 24).
While the BA defense is based out of a five-man front, Bethesda runs out of multiple fronts.
“They mix it up a lot,” said Morgan. “We’ve seen them in a four, five and six-man front. Coney is a good linebacker. He impresses me on defense as much as he does on offense.”
Last week, the Gator offense ground out 236 yards against a tough Sherwood squad. The going won’t be any easier this week.
Fullback Lestonz Lewis sits at 998 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Wingback Ellis Lane has 44 and five scores while quarterback Brandon Walker has 361 and four TDs.
“There are always going to be distractions during Homecoming Week,” added Morgan. “But I feel our guys are focused and understand the importance of this football game. We are just glad to be at home.”