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Gators host region rival PCA

    When two historic rivals square off on the football field, the game holds a lot of meaning for players, fans and alums.
But when the result of the game determines if you make the playoffs or not, the intensity of the contest is cranked up to near frenzied levels.
    That’s how the atmosphere should be tonight at Gator Alley when Bulloch Academy hosts Pinewood Christian Academy in a major GISA Region 1-AAA battle on Senior Night.
    “This is as big as it gets,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “Pinewood is the biggest rival our school has in any sport. This game would be huge even if both teams were 0-9 right now, just because it’s Pinewood. The fact that a playoff berth is on the line only intensifies the rivalry.”  
    Through the years, the Patriots have owned the Gators. Pinewood holds a 17-6 advantage and has beaten Bulloch 16 of the last 18 years. BA has beaten PCA only twice since 1985 (1998 and 2003).
    But Pinewood has had an uncharacteristic season this year and hadn’t won a game until last Friday night.
    “I had a chance to talk with their head coach (Keith Wasson) before they played Trinity last week,” said Morgan. “They knew that they were out of the playoff picture so their redirected their goal to that of spoiler.”
    The Patriots upset the Crusaders 12-7 and threw a monkey wrench in the region playoff picture.
    “It was definitely a shocker to a lot of people,” said Morgan. “But it just goes to show that anything can happen on any given day. That’s why you have to be prepared to play your best every single day.”
    A Gator victory tonight guarantees the region’s third-seed and their first-ever Class AAA football playoff game next week. A loss could mean the end of the season.
    “Actually, our playoffs started as soon as Pinewood beat Trinity,” said Morgan. “As long as we keep winning, we keep playing.”
    The two teams are very similar in a lot of respects.
    “Their bread-and-butter is their option,” said Morgan. “They operate primarily out of a flex offense. Their offensive line is very comparable in size to ours.
    “Jonathan Lawson does a good job of running the show at quarterback,” continued Morgan. “He absolutely took over the game last week against Trinity. Wayne Sharp (fullback) is a good runner but, more importantly, he is a very good blocker. He even catches the ball out of the backfield a little bit. They rotate a lot at their wingbacks. Ethan Kumpula, Sam Parks and Tyler Rogers all will see significant time there.”
    The Patriots run a 4-4 defense.
    “I expect them to possibly come out of it against some of the sets that we run,” said Morgan. “John Kemp (defensive end) and Heath Waters (defensive tackle) are always on the strong side of their line. Sharp, Chase Purvis and Chad Cowart all do good jobs at linebacker.”
    A large crowd is expected at Gator Alley for Senior Night, which sees 21 fall-sports athletes in football, softball, cross country and cheerleading being honored at halftime. Prior to the game, junior varsity football players, junior varsity cheerleaders, elementary football players and elementary cheerleaders will be introduced.
    According to Morgan, his guys are ready after an open week allowed them to hit the pause button.
    “We’ve been going at it non-stop since August 1,” he said. “Add in the difficulty of the schedule and the travel…we needed just to stop and breathe some. This week, we’ve been talking about the rivalry, about the playoff implications and the possibility of this being the last game. The enthusiasm and energy has been at an all-time high and we’re ready.”