Bulloch Academy faced its first true test against a legendary GISA Class AAA power Friday night and came up on the short end of the stick as top-ranked Deerfield-Windsor overpowered the feisty, fourth-ranked Gators 19-0 in a Region 1-AAA tilt.
The depth of Knights (4-0, 3-0) took its toll as D-W scored 12 second-half points and racked up most of its 454 offensive yards during the second 24 minutes. Deerfield-Windsor ran a no-huddle offense and had the luxury of substituting a new crop of offensive linemen after almost every third or fourth snap.
“Those 20 players that they have more than we do made all the difference,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “We played real hard in the first half. The effort was there. Our kids now know that they can play with the upper echelon of Triple A.”
D-W senior quarterback Banks Kinslow threw for 164 yards and two touchdown passes while fellow senior Davis Moore rushed for 144 yards on 15 carries. Junior Quentin Heard had 108 yards on 16 totes.
But it was the BA defense which was impressive early as Gators stopped the Knights on a fourth-and-goal at the two-yard line late in the first quarter and halted another D-W drive early in the second quarter, thanks to an interception by sophomore cornerback Harrison Averitt. Throughout the game, thunderous defensive hits came from both sides of the ball. No less than five helmets of D-W players were knocked off during the game.
Bulloch (3-1, 1-1) gave up the only score in the first half late in the opening quarter. After the tough goal-line stand, the Gators got the ball back on their own one-yard line. Five plays later, Moore picked off an errant pass from BA senior quarterback Brandon Walker at the BA 35.
On the next play, Kinslow connected with Michael Laslie for a 29-yard gain down to the BA 6. After Heard was stopped for a one-yard gain by the Gator defense, Kinslow zipped a pin-point laser to him for a five-yard score with 33 seconds left in the quarter.
After Averitt’s interception at the 8:08 mark of the second quarter, Bulloch mounted its own drive. Jacked up by the turnover, senior fullback Lestonz Lewis popped off his longest run of the night, a 22-yard scamper, to put BA at its own 42. The hard-running Lewis had a 13-yard run followed by an 11-yarder by senior wingback Ellis Lane, giving Bulloch a first-and-10 at the D-W 21. Lewis led Bulloch with 88 tough yards on 20 carries.
But consecutive penalties seemed to drain the life out of the Bulloch boys and Walker went 0-for-3 from the D-W 34.
“Those penalties were drive killers,” said Morgan.
BA kicker John Harden came on at the 3:23 mark to try a 50-yard field goal. He was lined up perfectly but his kick landed just a few yards short. Deerfield kicker Trey Puckett missed a 41-yard try as time expired in the first half.
Down only 7-0 to the number one team in state, the Bulloch faithful were encouraged by the stalwart play of the Gators. But the Knights from Albany came out in a gallop in the third quarter.
D-W raced down the field, gaining huge chunks of yardage, on an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Kinslow found Gaughf Ivey on a 12-yard swing pass with 8:30 left. BA senior James Brack blocked Puckett’s kick, leaving the Knights with a 13-0 lead.
Fatigue began to creep into the BA squad as D-W mounted another ground-munching drive. Kinslow hit Walker Lanier on a 16-yard play down to the BA 13 but the receiver fumbled the ball. The advantageous Averitt recovered the loose pigskin to halt the Knight charge.
The Gators got a glimmer of hope when Walker connected with Jaylen Evans on a 21-yard slant pattern but Lewis had an 11-yard loss on a fumble on the very next play to take the wind out of Bulloch’s sails.
In the fourth, the visitors went on an 11-play, 62-yard drive which ended when Ivey blasted in from five yards out at the 6:36 mark. Brack again blocked the PAT, giving D-W a 19-0 lead.
BA had one more shining moment, a 37-yard pass from Walker to Averitt, but Walker was thrown for an 11-yard loss on the next play.
The Gators travel to Perry next Friday night to face another Class AAA powerhouse, the Westfield Hornets.