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Bulloch faces Southland Academy on the road

Bulloch (3-5, 0-3) at Southland (6-3, 2-1)
7:30 p.m., 850 AM

    Bulloch Academy will travel 3½ hours to Americus today to face Southland Academy in an important GISA Region 1-AAA contest.
    The Raiders (6-2 overall and 2-1 in region play) will look to wrap up second place in the region and get the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game. The Gators (3-5, 0-3) are holding onto a fading glimmer of hope that they can still make the postseason. 
    “A lot of things can happen,” said BA head coach Ronnie Hodges. “We are still in the hunt.”
    Bulloch has owned the series since joining the Triple-A ranks three years ago but this year may be a little different. According to Hodges, SA is an experienced, senior-laden squad on both sides of the ball.
“Experience and size are going to be in their favor,” he said. “They have 10 senior starters on offense and nine or 10 on defense. Their overall team size is big. They are better this year than they have been in the past three years we have played them.”
    Southland whipped Tiftarea 27-7 last Friday night and outpointed Pinewood 57-26 two weeks ago.
    The Raider offense has put a lot of points with the offensive mix of hard-nosed rushing and efficient passing.
    “They have a real good fullback who runs well and is an excellent blocker,” said Hodges. “Their returning quarterback is an accurate passer and they have good speed at tailback. They mix up the run and pass really well but they keep the ball on the ground more than they put it in the air.”
    Southland runs a 4-man front on defense and also has more depth (35 players) than the Gators.
    A victory over Bulloch would solidify SA’s region runner-up status. But a BA win would create havoc in the standings and give the Gators a chance to qualify for post-season play. The boys from Statesboro would have to beat the Raiders tonight and Pinewood next week in order to claim the fourth seed in the six-team region.
    Hodges and his staff have been trying to keep spirits up amid a four-game losing streak. Westfield handed the Gators a demoralizing 41-0 defeat last Friday night.
    “I thought practices have gone really well this week,” said Hodges. “On Wednesday, the boys sort of lost their focus though.”
    If the injury situation hasn’t been bad enough, sickness has invaded the Gator camp.
    “We were down to 26 players,” said Hodges, “then we had a few out sick this week. We have been using coaches to run plays and to fill in and give us the look we need. It reminds me of a few years ago when we only had 17 near the end of the season.”
    But Hodges is confident that the Gators could pull out a victory and upset Southland’s Senior Night celebrations.
    “If we can keep the football on offense, gets some first downs and punch it into the end zone a time or two,” said Hodges, “that would help us get the momentum going our way and give us a little confidence. Because of our depth, the second half and fourth quarter will tell the tale.”