Bulloch Academy (2-0) at Robert Toombs (2-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday
Robert Toombs Christian Academy senior running back Rico Rogers will be a marked young man Friday night when Bulloch Academy rolls into Lyons to face the defending GISA Class A state champions.
“He is as good of a running back as I’ve seen in the GISA,” said BA head coach Terence Hennessy. “He’s not afraid to run in any of the gaps. He has the speed to burn you outside and the strength to run the isolations and powers.”
According to Mike Branch, sports editor of The Advance in Toombs County, Rogers has racked up 581 yards and five touchdowns in RTCA’s two victories this season, a 21-16 win over Pinewood and a 32-20 victory over Southland.
“I just hope they don’t line him up at quarterback,” joked Hennessy, “although he does have one of the team’s pass completions.”
Last year as a junior, Rogers got the call 26 times and tallied 178 yards and three touchdowns in RTCA’s 27-6 victory over the Gators. This year, it could be more of the same unless the Gator defense can converge on the Crusader star.
“We want to have eight or nine guys hitting him on every play,” said Hennessy. “Our play is to gang tackle him. He is too strong for anyone to simply arm-tackle him or handle him one-on-one. I have told our kickers and punters that I don’t want him to catch the ball.”
RTCA has the majority of its squad returning from the championship season and Hennessy says that they are big and physical.
“They are a complete team,” he said. “They’re pretty darn good. But a lot of them play both ways so they get winded and tired. We are also going to slant and stunt on defense to try and confuse them.”
The Crusaders also have a tendency to cough up the football.
“In the PCA game,” said Hennessy, “they turned the ball over twice and Pinewood capitalized. In the Southland game, they fumbled three times in the red zone.”
For the Gators to have a shot at winning, they will have to use their no-huddle, Flexbone option offense to control the football.
Bulloch needs to have sustained, time-consuming and point-producing drives which don’t allow the RTCA offense on the field.
“The option forces teams to be disciplined,” said Hennessy. “We don’t have to block two defenders because we ‘read’ them and make decisions on where to go with the football. I also think our linemen are quicker on both sides of the ball.”
But, tonight in Lyons, the Gators get their first real test of the season and Hennessy is anxious to see how his team responds.
“This is probably the second best team that we’ll face this season,” he said. “Our goal is not to punt. We want to keep it close until the end of the game.”