Bulloch Academy is flying high after a 2-0 start to the new season, but the Gators will have to be in top form Friday as they take on Tiftarea.
Friday’s game marks the first region game for Bulloch in its new home in the Georgia Independent School Association’s Region 2-IAAA as it steps up to the state’s highest classification.
So far, the Gators have looked unstoppable, rolling up a total of 99 points in wins over David Emanuel Academy and Robert Toombs Christian Academy. Bulloch didn’t face much competition from either squad — both compete in lower classifications — but know that the road only gets tougher from here.
Another change for the Gators this season is the size of its region.
Last season, Bulloch had only four other teams competing with it in Region 2-IAA and need only not to finish in last place to qualify for the state playoffs. This season, the Gators have nine others in the region — and will play eight region games as opposed to last year’s four — meaning that more wins will be required for a trip to the postseason.
“That’s the biggest difference for us this year,” said BA coach Clint Morgan. “In the past, we didn’t start region play until six or seven weeks into the year and we had a lot of time to improve and fix things. Now, we’ve got to be ready to play eight tough region games in a row.”
Bulloch may be competing in AAA for the first time, but it is far from a stranger with many of its new rivals.
Last season, the Gators played up to take on four of its new region members during their non-region schedule. Bulloch was very competitive in those games, defeating Trinity Christian and Bethesda Day — a game in which a flu bug forced the Gators to suit only 17 players — and dropping close decisions to Pinewood Christian and Westfield School.
In addition to giving the Gators confidence that they will be able to compete at the GISA’s highest level, their willingness to play larger schools in the past will now give them a better familiarity with their new region schedule.
“It might be a new region, but we’ve seen a lot of these guys recently,” said Morgan. “It helps that we know a little more about these teams. They know us too though, so we still have to go out and play a good game each week.”
Rounding out Bulloch’s fellow region members are Southland Academy, Sherwood Christian and Deerfield-Windsor — which finished as AAA state runner-up in 2009.
So far this season, Region 2-IAAA schools have combined for a 7-3 record in non-region games, so the Gators are likely in for a tough road in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been underdogs in most games that we’ve played,” said Morgan. “We like it that way. All of this competition drives us to improve and I certainly think that our players up their performance the better our opponents are.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.