For Bulloch Academy, the road to the playoffs goes through Savannah.
The Gators (5-2 overall and 3-2 in region play) will battle region foe Bethesda tonight at Calvary Day School. Both are jockeying for post-season position and a win for Bulloch would put them in the driver's seat for their second-straight trip to the Class AAA 'second season.'
But a new-and- improved Blazer squad (5-2, 4-1) stands in their way.
"This is the best Bethesda team that we've seen in many years," said Bulloch Academy head coach Ronnie Hodges. "They get better with each game. We are going to have our hands full."
Size, speed, talent and good coaching makes the Gator coaching staff wary of the Blazers.
One look at the Bethesda roster is enough to see the size of the opponents. According to Hodges, all are quick.
"The offensive and defensive lines are big and fast," he said. "All of the skill players can run and catch well. It's what they do after the catch that concerns us too. They can turn negative yards into positive yards just like that."
The high-scoring Blazers are on a four-game winning streak. They shut out Sherwood 27-0, pounded Pinewood 30-17, whipped Trinity 53-21 and trounced Tiftarea 49-14.
"Defensively, we have got to do the same kind of job against them that we did last week against Sherwood," said Hodges. "We've got to keep them from getting outside, bottle them up and tackle well."
Last Friday night, the Gators held the Albany squad to minus 15 yards rushing offense but allowed 173 yards of passing offense. The BA defense intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles. Through seven games, the Bulloch boys limit opponents to an average of 136 yards rushing and 87 yards passing per game.
Leading the defensive charge for Bulloch is senior linebacker Dillan Finch. He has 38 individual tackles and 35 assists, two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Senior defensive lineman Caleb Bohannon is second with 26 solo stops, 25 assists, three quarterbacks sacks and a fumble recovery. Other defensive leaders are junior linebacker Loy Waters (23, 16), senior defensive lineman Codi Johnson (21, 19) and junior cornerback Bailey Smith (19, 14).
Bulloch is on a winning streak of its own, having beaten Southland 21-16 and Sherwood 31-7. The Gators have been mixing up their offensive attack in the past two contests, relying more on the passing and option games.
Against Sherwood, quarterback Waters was 5-of-6 for 99 yards and a touchdown. He has completed 18 passes for 375 yards and three scores. Half of his completions have been to senior Jaylen Evans for 208 yards and two TDs.
Evans is also becoming more of a vital part of the running game, utilizing his acceleration and speed to rush for for 353 yards and five scores on 31 carries. Hard-nosed senior fullback Chris Young has 78 carries for 416 yards and eight touchdowns while junior tailback Harrison Averitt has 497 yards on 52 carries.
Through seven games, the Gator offense averages 222 yards rushing and 54 yards passing per game.
The Gator kicking game is also playing more of a role. Last week, sophomore kicker John Paul Padilla nailed a 25-yard field goal when a drive stalled. He also converted four extra-point attempts.