Bulloch Academy used a tough-as-nails defense to pound Memorial Day into submission and take a 21-7 victory Friday night at Gator Alley.
"I knew Memorial was going be very physical," said BA head coach Terence Hennessy. "My concern was if our guys, who were coming off a tough game against Gatewood, could do it two games in a row. Could they rise to the challenge? They did and actually established themselves as a physical football team. I am very proud of the kids."
The Gators held the lightning-quick Blue Thunder backs to just 138 yards rushing including numerous fourth-down stops, sacks, fumble recoveries and an interceptions.
"My biggest concern was if we could set the edge with our defensive ends," said Hennessy, "and then tackle them once we had them turned inside. I felt like Hunter Perry, Dylan Humphries and Jonathan Beecher set the edge and then the interior six (Trevor Mason, Seth Conner, Braxton Brinson, Brandon Merrill, Tyce Lovett and Tyler Budgett) cleaned it up and played a whale of a game."
Memorial (1-3) got on the board first after stopping the Gators' opening drive by recovering a Budgett fumble. Fourteen plays later, tailback Delvechio Powell plunged in from four yards out for the opening score with 31.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Gators (5-0) struck quickly to knot the score on the first play of the second quarter.
Budgett redeemed himself with a 50-yard catch-and-run over the middle down to the MDS 4. On the first play, Jarves Williams rumbled in from four yards out to knot the score after Brian Marsh's PAT.
Bulloch got a big scare when Humphries went down with a neck injury midway through the second quarter and was carted off by ambulance to the hospital. But the senior was able to return to the sidelines in street clothes late in the game.
Meanwhile, the rough-and-tumble battle continued as the squads slugged it out.
Hennessy saw an opportunity late in the second and decided to roll the dice.
Lining up in the wishbone, he had quarterback Lanier Olliff toss a sweep to Budgett to the right. The senior tucked to run but, at the last minute, stopped and flung the ball downfield to tight end Perry. The defense was completely fooled and Perry waltzed into the end zone for a 25-yard score with 1:01 left. Marsh's PAT gave the Gators a 14-7 lead at intermission.
The third quarter was another slugfest with multiple turnovers.
"Turnovers killed us," said Hennessy. "Luckily, our defense baled us out."
Budgett did just that late in the quarter with a high-flying interception.
"It was a very athletic move," said Hennessy. "It was one of the keys to helping us drive the final nail into their coffin."
Two plays later, Williams took the pitch to his left and disappeared in the pile. Seconds later, he burst out into the open and outraced the MDS secondary to a 61-yard score with 2:11 left for a 21-7 lead. Williams had 103 yards on the night.
Up by two scores, it was up to the BA offense to keep ball away from the sudden-strike capabilities of the Blue Thunder.
"In the second half, our offensive line did a great job of blocking and allowing us to grind away at the clock so they wouldn't have a chance to win," said Hennessy.
MDS 7 0 0 0 — 7
BA 0 14 7 0 — 21
MDS: Powell 4 run (Smith kick), :31.2
BA: Williams 4 run (Marsh kick), 11:55
BA: Perry 25 pass from Budgett (Marsh kick), 1:01
BA: Williams 61 run (Marsh kick), 2:11
First downs 11 17
Total Yards 198 319
Rushes-Yards 44-137 43-178
Passing 61 141
Comp-Att-Int 6-11-2 7-10-0
Turnovers 3 3
Penalties-Yards 11-108 2-15
Rushing_MDS: Powell 9-49; BA: Williams 10-103, Lovett 11-45
Passing_MDS: Williams 6-10-1-0, 61; BA: Olliff 6-9-0-1, 116; Budgett 1-1-0-1, 25
Receiving_MDS: Riley 2-25; BA: Perry 3-71