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Gators ready for toughest region schedule yet

    The challenge has never been greater for Bulloch Academy, but the Gators are determined to keep winning, no matter the odds.
    Last year saw Bulloch clinch its first region title since the 1997 season, and the Gators rolled to an 8-4 overall record, including a run to the quarterfinals of the Georgia Independent School Association state playoffs.
    This year, Bulloch’s enrollment has lifted it into GISA’s AAA classification – the highest in the association. Now, each region matchup will bring an opponent with larger numbers than the Gators.
    “It’s a challenge, but we’re up to it,” said BA coach Clint Morgan. “Even in double-A, we were the underdog almost every week. Winning the region last year gives us some confidence. We just want to make sure that we don’t get complacent and that we keep working hard to get better.”
    This season, the Gators return several key players, but are also struggling to fill many holes on a team that lost seven starters from 2009 on each side of the ball.
    Offensively, quarterback Brandon Walker — who enters his third year starting behind center — and slotback Ellis Lane are vital to the Gators’ high-powered triple option attack.
    Lane led BA with over 1000 yards on the ground this season, and is one of GISA’s biggest threats to break loose on any given play. Walker has mastered the art of the option, and his vast experience in handling the reads and pitches makes the offense much more potent.
    “It’s a huge benefit to have experience at quarterback in this offense,” said Morgan. “Brandon knows that we have the confidence in him for him to make reads and change the play at the line. He has done a great job for two years and we’re looking for big things again this season.”
    Defensively, the Gators are scrambling to find a starting lineup that they’re comfortable with.
    “We’ve had three scrimmages so far, and lined up with three different sets of guys,” said coach Ronnie Hodges at Monday’s Rotary Club meeting. “People keep asking when we’re going to settle. I keep telling them that we’ll set a starting lineup when we win.”
    A particular concern is the defensive front.
    While Lane plays on both sides of the ball and heads up a solid Gator defensive secondary, Bulloch is without a returning linebacker and must also work to find the best combination on the line.
    “It’s definitely tough trying to get things where we need to be on defense,” said Morgan. “The offense is a little bit ahead of the defense right now, which is the opposite of how things usually are. We pride ourselves on playing good defense and we’re going to get there.”
    Bulloch Academy will be one of the first teams in the state to kick off its 2010 season as the Gators host David Emanuel Academy August 26. The Gators dominated in a 51-8 pasting of the Eagles in the 2009 opener, but Bulloch is taking nothing for granted this season.
    “I know that coach (Jimmy) Barnett is going to do a good job over there,” said Morgan. “We aren’t taking anything for granted. They’re going to have a whole new look that we haven’t seen before, so that will be good preparation for all of the other new teams that we’ll face this season.”

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.