So far, so good for Bulloch Academy.
The Gators got a scare against Robert Toombs last week, but 30 unanswered second half points erased an 18-14 deficit as Bulloch improved to 3-0 on the season.
Friday’s win continued the trend of each game being a tale of two halves for the Gators. Bulloch pounced early in its season opening win over St. Andrews, leaving backups and junior varsity players to get experience in the second half. Against Bethesda, the Gators led 21-20 at the break before the game turned into a defensive struggle and a final stand put them in the win column again. Then there was Friday, as Bulloch struggled to get its hands on the ball early, but took total control over the final two quarters.
"It was a big challenge for us," said BA coach Ronnie Hodges. "I give our guys credit. We stayed calm and eventually got going. It took a good effort on both sides of the ball and once we were able to get things started, we showed that we can be a pretty good team."
The various ways in which the Gators have pulled out wins has to be encouraging for fans. Bulloch Academy has shown that it can put forth strong efforts on both sides of the ball which is the sort of complete effort that will be necessary to win games down the stretch.
Offense hits its stride
Heading into the season, the Gators knew that they would have to lean heavily on the two returning starters in their offensive backfield.
Loy Waters is in his second season under center while Harrison Averitt is quickly picking up the slack of the departed Jaylen Evans and Chris Young.
Averitt had the game of his career against Robert Toombs. The senior showed why he is a state champion sprinter as he ripped off touchdown runs of 77 and 59 yards on his way to a 285 yard performance. Averitt is averaging 152 yards per game on the ground.
In Bulloch’s triple-option offense, Waters has only been asked to put the ball in the air 11 times, but has still connected for three touchdowns. He has also contributed with his legs, trailing only Averitt with 186 rushing yards so far this season.
Defense comes up big again
Early in the game against Robert Toombs, the Gator defense was back on its heels. The Crusaders opened up the game in a no-huddle attack that took Bulloch by surprise.
"I knew that (Robert Toombs)had the ability to go no-huddle," said Ronnie Hodges. "But we really hadn’t seen that much of it. It kind of took us by surprise. They moved the ball a little bit early on, but once we got things figured out, our defense did very well."
The Crusaders were able to use their offense to keep the Gators running every which way while keeping the BA offense off the field for much of the first quarter. Other defenses might have worn down late in the game because of all the early action, but the Gators were up to the challenge.
Roster numbers are up over 40 this season, with many of those players ready to go at the varsity level — a welcome change from recent years.
"Depth is usually an issue," said Hodges. "But we only have a few guys that are going both ways this season. I think that is keeping us rested and allowing us to stay strong throughout the game."
Health is key
Last season, the Gators suffered an ugly 42-7 loss in the first round of the GISA state playoffs. Some of that had to do with a quality opponent in Stratford Academy, but a lack of healthy players also took its toll.
Bulloch played much of the 2011 season without half of its starting linemen on either side of the ball. Through three games in 2012, things are going much better.
"Knock on wood," said Hodges. "Right now, we’re doing alright. We’ve got our share of bumps and bruises, but we’re doing much better in terms of not having guys have to sit out games."
The continued health of the line will be key as the Gators’ option attack needs lanes in which to run. Hodges expects the competition to get much tougher once region play begins and the Gators will have to have all hands on deck to keep up their early success.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.