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Gators fighting for a playoff spot

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7:20 p.m.
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Southland (6-3, 1-2) at
#5 Bulloch (6-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m., 850 AM
Gator Alley

    Homecoming should be a great time in a high-school student’s life and the Bulloch Academy Gators have had fun with dress-up days, class skits, helping the girls with powder-puff football practice and other school-spirit events this week.
    Head coach Ronnie Hodges and his staff wanted it that way.
    “I wanted them to participate in and enjoy homecoming,” he said. “It’s something that they will always remember. But, I also want them to remember the reason for homecoming.”
    Every afternoon this week, the BA coaching staff has reminded them.
    “I didn’t want to take anything away from their fun,” said Hodges, “but I didn’t want that to be the focus of the week either. The football game is the reason for homecoming.”
    But tonight’s battle with Southland Academy from Americus is more than just the homecoming game.
    “We need to win these last two to get into the playoffs,” Hodges said.
    Both the Gators and the Raiders have lost two Region 1-AAA losses. With Southland still having to face undefeated region powerhouse Deerfield-Windsor next week, a win would basically clinch a playoff spot for the Gators. A loss, on the other hand, would narrow Bulloch’s window of opportunity.
    Unlike most teams’ opponents for homecoming, the Raiders are far from an easy ‘W.’
    “I believe they are the biggest football team in the GISA,” said Hodges. “They average 256 pounds per man across the front. The right guard (Grady Barfield) is 304. There is no way that we can stand toe-to-toe with them.”
    Coupled with a banged-up bunch of starters, the Gators may have their hands full.
    “We had about three or four starters who sat out this week,” said Hodges. “We have so many who are beat up, bummed up and hobbling around. Pulls, bruises, etc….you name it. But, come Friday night, real players will forget about the aches and pains and play football.”
    According to Hodges, the Gators will have to rely on their speed and quickness against the brawny Raiders.
    “That’s going to have to be our answer to their size,” he said. “We’ve got to outquick and outrun them.”
    Offensively, Southland runs from the I-formation.
    “They have a big fullback (225-pound senior Andrew Alexander) who runs between the tackles real well,” said Hodges. “The tailback (145-pound junior Dustin Shattles) is fast enough to turn the corner. Their quarterback (junior Jon Adkins) is very option-minded and can throw.”
Defensively, the Raiders run a 4-4 stack.
    “They depend on their big boys up front to keep runners from getting to the second level,” said Hodges.
    With last week’s 38-14 loss to Westfield and all the homecoming activities this week, one would think that the Gators’ minds wouldn’t be right headed into a big game.
    Just the opposite, says Hodges.
    “The attitude of the kids has been great,” he said. “They have been very focused. I have been very, very pleased.”