By CHRIS STANLEY
Week one of the GHSA season was unforgiving to Bulloch County to say the least.
All four schools in the area lost by double-digits this past weekend, making Portal, Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch all winless in their debuts. Although it wasn’t wholly unexpected, it was none the less a disappointing outcome for all four schools.
Statesboro and Portal are in the midst of rebuilding, SEB was playing a school double their classification and Bulloch Academy played a school from the GHSA — so as mentioned the difficulty was obvious from the start. On the bright side, things can only go up from week one for the Bulloch County schools.
Victory seemed so close for Statesboro High School on Friday night against Burke County. The Blue Devil’s held a 9-6 lead entering the fourth quarter before the wheels came off the whole operation. Statesboro had three turnovers in the third quarter, two on downs and one on a fumble, and allowed 22 points to fall 28-17 at the Bear Den.
Statesboro only mustered 4.5 yards per play off just 45 plays and struggled to be effective on offense all night — especially on the ground. Statesboro was constantly stuffed up the middle of the line and only averaged 2.9 yards a carry off 26 rushes. The only sign of life came from quarterback Davis Wiggins, who was 12-19 for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Keep in mind there were four dropped passes hidden in those seven incompletions, three of them for would-be first downs. Wide receiver Wright Rockett also proved to be a proven target, catching six of his seven passes for three first downs and a touchdown. The passing game is something to keep an eye on for Statesboro as the season moves on.
Give credit to the Yellow Jackets, because they definitely didn’t shy away from bigger competition. Richmond Hill is a team from class 6A, a place where most 3A teams wouldn’t ever think of playing. But SEB did, and would lose a decisive 35-13 game where Richmond Hill started on a 28-0 run.
Keep in mind the Wildcats starting quarterback was suspended for the entire game and Richmond Hill still was able to throw for 8.5 yards an attempt on a young and at times vulnerable secondary for SEB. The two passing touchdowns given up by the Yellow Jackets were of 80 and 40 yards, which combined were nearly more offense than SEB the entire first half.
The lone bright spot for SEB was Jontrell Wells and Chase Walker, who together led the Yellow Jackets with 206 yards rushing at 6.4 yards per carry and both touchdowns for the Yellow
Jackets on the night. SEB fans need to keep their fists tight though, as another class 6A team lies on the horizon this week in the Bradwell Institute.
Friday was a bad case of the turnover bug biting Portal, as they’d commit five total in their 22-8 loss to Truetlen County. The offense simply couldn’t get out of its own way, never being able to establish a consistent rhythm on the ground outside of Craig Ware’s 6.8 yards per carry on 12 rushes.
As a matter of fact, Portal only managed 31 total offensive plays on the night. The passing game never opened up against Truetlen’s defense, as Jake Brown could only muster 3.0 yards per attempt. Despite all that, the Panthers still were able to convert nine first downs — but the turnovers only allowed eight points to be put on the board.
Truetlen’s ground attack pierced through the Portal defensive front all night long, going for 6.4 yards per carry on 43 carries. With a road trip to ECI coming up this week, Portal has a lot of kinks to work out on both sides of the ball if they want to merely survive. Look for some shakeups on both sides of the ball going into this week’s game.
It was a first for Bulloch Academy last week to host a GHSA opponent, and after last week they may not do it again for a while. Our Lady of Mercy was no GHSA powerhouse by any means, but they possessed a level of speed the likes the Gators had never seen before. What had been an explosive BA offense over the last two weeks had been stymied.
OLM was the first team to also figure out a way to stop Jake Mock. Mock was held under a 100 total yards for the first time this season, and it seemed to have a ripple effect. BA would turn the ball over four times on two fumbles and two interceptions. In all, the Gator offense would be held to just 2.6 yards per play compared to OLM’s 8.3.
In a similar situation to SEB, BA can be thankful they don’t have to play GHSA opponents week after week. They’ll get back to playing GISA opponents for the rest of the week and not have to worry about seeing that kind of speed. That being said, four turnovers and 2.6 yards per carry on offense will be things to work on the upcoming week.
Chris Stanley may be reached at (912) 489-9408.