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Gators face big test

There’s nothing like a big football game between two undefeated region opponents early in the season.

That’s what’s going on tonight when Bulloch Academy hosts Deerfield-Windsor at Gator Alley.

While the Gators are newcomers to the Georgia Independent School Association’s top classification, the Knights from Albany are long-time Class AAA members and have established themselves as athletic powers.

"Deerfield-Windsor is a very, very good football team," said Bulloch Academy head coach Clint Morgan. "They have played for the Class AAA state football championship for the last three years."

DWS has wins over Sherwood Christian (18-6), Stratford Academy (42-10) and Bethesda (28-14) and are the top-ranked team in the Coaches’ Poll. Bulloch has wins over David Emanuel (59-22), Robert Toombs (40-7) and Tiftarea (24-14) and is tied for fourth in the poll.

According to the GISA Stats website, the DWS offense has been pretty balanced, rushing for 658 yards while passing for 293 and scoring 98 points.

"They have so many different kids who touch the ball," Morgan said of the squad which sports a 59-man roster.

Senior Davis Moore leads the Knights with 331 yards on 39 carries and four touchdowns. Junior Quentin Heard has 106 yards on 22 carries and three scores. Senior quarterback Banks Kinslow is 19-of-30 for 293 yards and six TDs. Kinslow’s favorite receiver is fellow senior Michael Laslie, who has caught seven balls for 135 yards and two scores. But Heard also has four catches for 47 yards and two TDs.

"Every three plays, they run five fresh offensive linemen into the game," said Morgan. "They have the added advantage of depth."

Charged with stopping the invading Knights will be the linebacking corps of senior James Brack, who leads the Gators with 22 individual tackles and 15 assists, and sophomore Loy Waters, who has 13 solo stops and 15 assists. Other leading defenders of the Alley are junior defensive tackle Caleb Bohannon (11, 15), sophomore cornerback Harrison Averitt (11, 11, two pass breakups and two interceptions) and junior defensive end Chris Young (11, 9).

The DWS defense has been pretty stout, allowing just 366 yards on the ground, 115 through the air and only giving up 30 points.

"They are based out of a four-man front," said Morgan. "We’ll also see defensive linemen shuttle in and out after every few plays. They return nine starters from last year’s top-ranked defense"

Senior Rhett Cooper leads the defense with 14 individual tackles and 16 assists. Heard has 12 solo stops, three assists and a quarterback sack. Camden Stephens has seven tackles, three assists and a quarterback sack

Bulloch Academy’s high-octane offense has amassed 1,167 rushing and 95 passing in three games and scored 123 points. The defense has given up 763 total yards (545 rushing, 218 passing) and 43 points. The Gators got their first-ever Class AAA win last week with a 24-14 victory over Tiftarea Academy in Chula.

"That was a huge confidence booster," said Morgan. "Our kids now know that they can compete in the Triple-A ranks so the confidence level should be there on a week-to-week basis now."

Senior fullback Lestonz Lewis has run wild through three games, galloping for 533 yards on 42 carries while classmate Ellis Lane has 263 yards on 31 carries. Senior quarterback Brandon Walker has 165 yards on 12 carries and senior Morris Prince has 120 yards on 11 totes. Lewis had five touchdowns, Lane and Prince have three each and Walker has one.

Walker is 6-of-11 through the air for 95 yards with three TDs. His favorite target is Lane, who has nabbed five balls for 68 yards and two scores.

The Gators are decided underdogs going into the contest.

"It’s a challenge, "said Morgan. "Our guys know the quality of Deerfield-Windsor. But, after all the newspaper articles, television interviews and computer chatting, both teams are going to strap it up and put 11 guys on each side of the football."