The Bulloch Academy Gators traveled to Waynesboro Friday night to take on the Spartans of Edmund Burke Academy in the Gators’ first region contest of the season. The Gators were hoping to travel back to Statesboro 1-0 in region play, and that's exactly what they did, claiming a 41-13 victory over the Spartans (0-6).
The Gator (4-1-1) running game was the key once again as the trio of Seniors Tyce Lovett, Jake Mock and Junior Brandon Merrill combined for 232 yards rushing on just 25 carries. Merrill led the team with 114 yards and one touchdown, while Lovett and Mock each scored twice.
The Gator defense played bend but don't break the entire first half, but came out and dominated the Spartan offense in the second half.
The Gators scored first on a 1 yard touchdown run by Lovett with 1:29 left to go in the 1st quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 20 yard 3rd down run by Junior Brandon Merrill, and an 18 yard pass completion to Junior Lawson Anderson from Sophomore quarterback Don Aaron to the Spartans one yard line.
The Spartans responded on their next drive with a 4 yard touchdown run by Tyler Post to even the score at 7-7 midway through the second quarter. Mock gave the Gators the lead right back with an 80 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Gators a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Gators came out in the 2nd half much like they did last week with some good old-fashioned smash mouth football. The Gators took their opening drive 55 yards, and Lovett scored from 10 yards out to give the Gators a 21-7 lead early in the 3rd quarter. Several series later, Mock gave the Gators a 28-7 lead on a 55 yard touchdown run right up the middle with 2:45 left to go in the 3rd quarter. Sophomore Jake Nelson put the game away on the Spartans next offensive possession with a 20 yard interception return for a touchdown, after a tipped pass by senior defensive tackle Garrett Williams.
The Gators continued to pound the ball right at the Spartan defense up 35-7 in the fourth quarter, when Brandon Merrill cut back against the grain and scampered 70 yards for the Gators final score of the night.
“I thought Brandon ran the best I've ever seen him run,” said Gator Head Coach Terence Hennessy. “I can't say enough good things about him. He plays so hard.”
Hennessy credited his seniors for the Gators' dominance in the second half.
“I thought we played great in the final 24 minutes. I wasn't happy with how we played in the first half,” Hennessy said. “Our Seniors stepped up at halftime and showed great leadership. They made everyone pick up their game.”
The Gators - now 1-0 in region play - host the Knights of Frederica Academy next Friday night. The Knights are 2-0 in region competition with their victory Friday night over Pinewood Christian Academy.
“It's now time to focus on Frederica,” Hennessy said. “They've got one more win than we do in the region, and this game is obviously very important to us.”
Bulloch Academy will be celebrating 40 years of football next Friday night for Homecoming in Gator Alley. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.