Bulloch Academy's regular season didn’t end quite the way they had hoped last Friday night, but they have a chance to play spoiler now as the playoffs begin tonight. The Gators (5-3-1) travel to Newnan to take on the undefeated and number one seeded Hawks of the Heritage School (9-0).
The Gators enter the playoffs on a two game losing streak after losing to region foes Trinity Christian and Pinewood Christian in consecutive weeks. Those losses forced the Gators to finished fourth in Region 2AAA, and a ride up I-16 and I-75.
Is wasn't long ago Bulloch Academy was riding as high as any team in the GISA. Before the two game skid, BA was riding a four game winning streak which including a win over now region champion Frederica 8-7 on a short week.
As a matter of fact, before the two game skid BA hadn't lost a GISA game. They were 5-0-1, with the tie coming in the season opener against Memorial Day.
The Heritage School finds themselves in first place in Region 1AAA after easily going undefeated in conference play. The Hawks outscored their region opponents 268-28, in what some consider a weak 1AAA region. The Gators and Hawks both played Trinity Christian Sharpsburg during the regular season with the Gators winning 29-7 and the Hawks winning 42-10.
“Heritage is a very good football team,” said Gator Head Coach Terence Hennessy. “They're undefeated and they've only had two games within 7 points.” The Hawks utilize their speed while working out of a spread formation. They use a one and two back system, and the jet sweep is their most explosive play. “We've got to be disciplined on defense. We cannot allow them to get outside,” said Hennessy.
The Gators will rely on a defensive unit that has played well all year long. Led by Seniors Garrett Williams and G.C. Kimbrell on the defensive front and Senior Tyce Lovett and Junior Seth Conner at the linebacking position.
The Gators will have two of their tackling machines returning from injuries tonight in Junior Brandon Merrill and Sophomore Jake Nelson. The secondary for the Gators led by Seniors Davis Childs and Nathan Rice as well as Junior Billy Tillman will be asked to contain the speed of the Hawks.
The Hawks defense has been spectacular throughout the season, and if the Gators are going to find any success, then they'll need a running game that has struggled the last several weeks.
“Heritage runs a 4-4, and they go man to man in the secondary,” said Hennessy. “Once again it comes down to winning the line of scrimmage.”
The Gators and Lovett will get some much needed help this week with the return of Merrill in the backfield. Sophomore quarterback Don Aaron had one of his best games last week through the air hitting Childs and Junior wideout Lawson Anderson on 6 catches each. Aaron and the Gators hope to build on that success this week.
The Gators had their playoff plans dashed with last week’s lost to Pinewood, but they have not let it get them down. “The guys have been very upbeat all week,” said Hennessy. “They know what's at stake.”
The Gators certainly know what's at stake. It's win or go home from here on out. Kickoff in Newnan is set for 7:30.