CHULA -- Lestonz Lewis rushed for 255 yards and scored twice to lead Bulloch Academy to a 24-14 victory over Tiftarea Academy Friday night.
The victory kept the Gators undefeated at 3-0 but, more importantly, gave them their first victory in the Georgia Independent School Association’s Class AAA classification.
“As a team, we’ve talked about this being a year of firsts,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan. “Getting our first region win as a Triple-A team is a great feeling.”
Bulloch kicker John Harden opened the fourth quarter with a record-tying 48-yard field goal to give the Gators a 24-14 lead. Harden had set the record last week against Robert Toombs Christian Academy.
Tiftarea (0-3) fought back in the fourth, desperately trying to get back into the game. The Panthers, who had opened the third quarter with six-play, 83-yard scoring drive, put together another drive after Harden’s field goal.
But on a fourth-and-one at the BA 42, Lewis stuffed running back Justin McKinney for a three-yard loss with 9:18 remaining. Bulloch went three-and-out on its series and gave the ball back to the Panthers with 6:30 left in the game.
Tiftarea put together another drive, relying on the arm of quarterback Josh Woods. But it was a Woods’ scramble on a fourth-and-two with 4:00 left which gave the Panthers new life at the BA 46. Woods connected on the next three-of-four passing attempts to give Tiftarea a first-and-goal at the BA 10 with 3:10 left.
On the next play, BA defensive tackle Codi Johnson pounded McKinney in the backfield and ball popped loose. After the officials cleared the pile, the Gators had recovered the fumble, stopped the drive and got the ball back with 2:59 remaining in the game.
The Gators were able to run out the clock and claim their first Class AAA win.
Bulloch opened the scoring late in the first quarter when the hard-running Lewis bulled in from one yard out at the 3:06 mark. Two plays earlier, he had broken off a 45-yard scamper. He took a pitch, sped through a big hole off left tackle and made some sweet downfield moves to get to the TA two-yard line.
BA went up 14-0 in the second quarter when Ellis Lane took the ball into the end zone from four yards out at the 10:56 mark. On the seven-play, 60-yard drive, Lane had a 23-yard scamper and hauled in an 18-yard pass from from Brandon Walker. On the night, Lane rushed for 64 yards on 12 carries.
The Gators were driving toward another score late in the quarter when Chris Young was separated from the ball at the TA 47-yard line. The pigskin was fell into the arms of Garrett Rippy, who returned it 31 yards to the BA 22. On the next play, Tiftarea quarterback Wes Carter faked a pass and took off running for the 22-yard score at the 5:44 mark.
After both squads traded punts, Lewis got the call on the Gator 21. He shook off a would-be tackler in the backfield, went to his right, cut back up the middle and was gone. Seventy-nine yards later, he crossed the goal line to give BA a 21-7 lead with 2:17 left in the first half.