The Bulloch Academy Gators suffered a rare down year on the football field last fall, missing out on the state playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Help is on the way as Terence Hennessy was named head coach Thursday following the retirement of former head man Ronnie Hodges.
Hennessy has spent the last six seasons at Edmund Burke Academy in Waynesboro. He assumed the head coaching duties for Edmund Burke last season. Hennessy has a total of 18 years coaching experience, including successful stints at Southeast Bulloch and Benedictine.
In addressing his new team Thursday afternoon, Hennessy made it clear that he is leaving what he views as a good situation in order to come to an even better one.
“Bulloch Academy had some struggles last season, but those are things I think we can overcome,” Hennessy said. “This school has a great athletic tradition. The football team has traditionally been good. And it isn’t just football. Basketball, baseball and wrestling are always strong at Bulloch Academy. It shows that there is a strong program here that will allow teams to succeed.”
One of Hennessy’s immediate challenges will be to rebuild depth and numbers for the Gators.
Already one of the smallest school in Class AAA of the Georgia Independent School Association, Bulloch’s roster numbers dipped below 40 last season. To make matters worse, a rash of injuries hit hard early in the season and never let up.
The Gators will return at least 10 seniors — all of them healthy now — to the 2014 team. Hennessy addressed the rising seniors after the initial team meeting, challenging them to take leadership roles and telling them to encourage any other students who might be thinking of giving football a try.
Numbers may still come up a bit short of region rivals this fall, but the Gators will be undertaking a rigorous spring and summer workout regimen that will aim to build depth by preparing players to contribute at multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
In fact, everything in Hennessy’s initial address to his team had the same tone.
From here on out, it’s full speed ahead.
Hennessy talked of a 4-4 base defense that will constantly attack opposing offenses. The Gators will transition from wishbone and flexbone offensive sets to a multiple look that will run the option out of all formations.
Even the schedule is built to instill an aggressive mindset for Bulloch Academy. In addition to their region games, the Gators will take on the defending state champions from all three classifications of the GISA.
“You don’t get better by playing teams that go 0-10 or 2-8,” Hennessy said. “That might make you feel good, but it doesn’t help us improve. I’d rather go 5-5 and challenge our guys to improve. We’re going to find out what it takes to be the best and that will be our goal every year.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.