The road doesn’t get any easier for the Bulloch Academy Gators.
Last week, they battled the top-ranked team in GISA Class AAA. This week, they take on the second-ranked team, the Westfield School Hornets.
“It is also the first of three long road games,” BA head coach Clint Morgan said of the Region 1-AAA foe from Perry. “This is the gauntlet of our season.”
The Hornets (3-0 overall and 1-0 in region play) have already had their open date so they have had two weeks to prepare for the fifth-ranked Gators and their triple option.
“That is definitely a disadvantage for us,” said Morgan. “One of the beauties of running the triple option is that it’s hard for a team to prepare for it in one week. With their speed and athleticism and two weeks of practice, I’m sure they have been simulating our offense pretty well.”
Westfield holds victories over Tattnall Square Academy, Edmund Burke Academy and Trinity Christian. The Hornets’ offensive playmakers have been senior quarterback Wesley Rust and senior fullback John Lee. In three games, Rust has 145 yards rushing on 25 carries and is 14-of-27 passing for 212 yards and three TDs. Lee has 36 totes for 107 yards and two scores.
“Rust is a three-year starter,” said Morgan. “He started at receiver his sophomore season and has been the quarterback for the past two years. He’s a very poised kid.
“Lee will line up at either fullback or wingback,” added Morgan. “He’s as quick as a cat. Westfield is going to run the ball more than they throw it. It will probably by 75/25.”
As a team, the Hornets have rushed for 446 yards, passed for 212 and scored 59 points.
The Bulloch defense has been pretty stout through four games. Leading the charge for the Gators have been linebackers James Brack and Loy Waters. Brack, a senior, has accounted for 33 individual tackles and 24 assists, an interception, a pass breakup and two blocked PATs. Waters, a sophomore, has 25 solos and 25 assists. Other defensive leaders for Bulloch are junior defensive tackle Caleb Bohannon (17, 18), sophomore cornerback Harrison Averitt (17, 16, four pass breakups, three interceptions and a fumble recovery) and junior defensive end Chris Young (13, 11).
The Westfield defense has been even better, giving up only 428 yards and just 11 points.
“I’m not a rocket scientist,” said Morgan, “but if you’re giving up, on average, less than four points per game, number one, you have a pretty good defense and, number two, you have a pretty good chance to win. They are very similar to Deerfield in that they are so disciplined.”
Brandon Bailey leads the Hornet defense with 29 tackles and 13 assists. Clay Bridges has 19 tackles, 10 assists, a quarterback sack and an interception while Wesley Murph had 17 stops and three assists.
Offensively for Bulloch, senior fullback Lestonz Lewis leads the rushing attack with 627 yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries. Senior wingback Ellis Lane has 278 yards and three scores and has caught five passes for 68 yards and two TDs. Senior quarterback Brandon Walker has rushed for 184 yards and passed for 153 while senior wingback Morris Prince has 125 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season, the Hornets were the Gators’ homecoming opponent and Bulloch nearly pulled off a huge upset.
“That was probably the best game we played all year long,” remembers Morgan of the 26-13 loss. “It was 20-13 with five minutes to go in the game. That will give us a little confidence going into Friday night.”
Besides the confidence to win, the Gators will need sustained offensive drives and an opportunistic and aggressive defense which can create Westfield turnovers and stop the Hornets on third-down situations.