By JOSH AUBREY
They say when it’s a rivalry game you can throw the records away. Last Friday night in Bellville the Bulloch Academy Gators took their 5-4 record up against the 2-7 Pinewood Patriots with a ticket to the state playoffs hanging in the balance, and for 47 minutes and 57 seconds the game was still up for grabs.
Seth Brant finally helped decide the final outcome as he split the uprights from 28 yards away — as the final horn sounded — and the Gators clinched a spot in the postseason with a thrilling 45-42 victory over the Patriots.
“It’s a 48 minute fight,” said Bulloch Academy head coach Terence Hennessy, “We punched them, they punched us, we punched them back and luckily we had just enough left to kick that field goal.”
The game saw four ties and three lead changes, which included leads by both teams of 14 points.
“It seemed like whoever had the ball last would be the team to win it,” said Hennessy, “I feel like we executed the game plan pretty well and I never doubted our kids could pull it off.”
The Gator’s ticket to the postseason buys them a trip to Albany for a meeting with Deerfield Windsor (6-4) , the #2 seed out of Region 3-AAA
The Knights come in with the same record as Bulloch Academy and a few similar opponents. The Knights beat Trinity Sharpsburg 26-16 while the Gators won 35-28 in overtime. Deerfield Windsor defeated Westfield 28-7, while Bulloch Academy lost to Westfield 19-15. The Knights lost to Pinewood 22-14 while the Gators just last week knocked off Pinewood 45-42.
Last year Deerfield Windsor advances to the state semifinals before falling to Gatewood 17-13. The last time Deerfield Windsor and Bulloch Academy played was the opening round of the 2014 playoffs and the Knights beat the Gators and first year head coach Terence Hennessy 31-7.
Bulloch Academy and Deerfield Windsor will get things underway at 7:30 Friday in Albany.
The Statesboro Blue Devils (2-5, 0-2) have had an extra week to prepare for what could be the biggest game of their season, as a win over the visiting South Effingham Mustangs (0-9) would send them to the state playoffs.
The last time the Blue Devils took the field it was a 35-21 loss to the Ware County Gators, a game they had come back from a 21-7 halftime lead to tie it at 21-21 only to see the Gators score 14 unanswered points in route to falling to 0-2 in region play.
This week in come the struggling Mustangs who haven’t won a game all season, and last year won only one game, that being a 21-7 victory over Statesboro in Guyton.
This year the Mustangs are 0-2 in region play but have two heartbreaking losses on their resume. The first, a 13-9 loss to Wayne County in which they held a fourth quarter lead and the next — deja vu for Statesboro fans — a 13-7 loss to New Hampstead as the Phoenix scored on the final play of the game.
South Effingham’s latest loss came to Ware County and there was no doubt about this one as the Gators cruised to a 35-3 win.
Statesboro and South Effingham are scheduled for a 7:30 kick off at Womack Field.
After starting the season with an 0-4 record the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets have reeled off four straight wins. The latest being a 55-6 victory over Groves in Garden City that has put them into a tie for second in the region standings.
The Yellow Jackets got another solid performance from Chase Walker who rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns, and while that is another day at the office for Walker, where the Yellow Jackets are showing the most improvement is in the passing game as quarterback Blaize Minick threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyler Thornton.
This week the Region 3-AAA playoff picture should become a little more clear as Southeast Bulloch, Beach and Windsor Forest are all tied for second place in the region at 4-1. A Southeast Bulloch win would set up a showdown with Windsor Forest in their season finale for a home playoff game.
Beach enters Friday’s contest with a record of 5-3 overall and 4-1 in region play. They have beaten Johnson, Groves, Islands and Windsor Forest (34-27), their lone loss came to Savannah High 21-15). The Bulldogs have yet to play Jenkins.
The Bulldogs come in averaging 26 points per game while defensively Beach is allowing only 14 points per contest.
This game is a rare Saturday matchup for the Yellow Jackets and will kick off at 7:00 at Garden City Stadium.
The Portal Panthers (1-7, 0-4) limp into this week’s contest with Claxton in the midst of a four game losing streak in which they have been outscored 156-29.
The latest loss came Friday in Savannah as they dropped a 31-6 decision to Savannah Christian. The Panthers managed just 109 yards rushing on 27 carries, quarterback Fischer Oglesby was 8-18 passing for 123 yards.
This week the Panthers square off against the Claxton Tigers who are also 1-7 on the season with that one victory being a 31-26 win two weeks ago against McIntosh County Academy, a team that beat Portal three weeks ago 38-13.
That game is scheduled for a 7:30 kick off in Portal.