he season for one high school sport is starting to wind down and another is already midway through the state playoffs, but there are still a handful of area teams that are either in contention for a title or at least looking back on a great season.
One team that almost everyone expected to be mentioned in the same breath as a state championship is Statesboro High football. So far, the Blue Devils have not disappointed. A few close games to start off the year may have caused SHS to drop from No. 2 to No. 5 in the state rankings, but the Devils have been dominant in their last three games.
Statesboro gets a chance to rest during its open slot in the schedule this week, and might clinch another trip to the Region 2-AAAA title game before it plays another down. If Greenbrier falters this week, the Devils clinch their sub-region, but — if not — can take care of things when they travel to Greenbrier next week.
Over in Portal, the Panthers have certainly turned things around after a few down years.
Three consecutive 1-9 seasons saw some improvement last season with a 3-9 mark, but David NeSmith was brought in this spring to take the next step. The Panthers got off to a shaky start, but are now 4-3 and already have their most wins since the school’s last state playoff appearance in 2006.
Portal officially announced itself as a contender in Region 3-A two weeks ago with an upset win over Emanuel County Institute — the No. 3 team in Class-A at the time. The Panthers might still need some help to claim the sub-region title, but have already punched their ticket into the region play-in round to be held in the final week of the regular season and can advance into the state playoffs with a win there.
Over at Bulloch Academy, an overhaul of the football program is still yielding the same success.
The top four rushers from the 2010 team were all lost to graduation and Ronnie Hodges took over as head coach this season after the departure of Clint Morgan, but the Gators once again find themselves right in the middle of the hunt for a spot in the state playoffs.
Loy Waters has filled in admirably in his first season under center and the combination of Harrison Averitt, Jaylen Evans and Chris Young have provided enough spark to keep the Gators in every ballgame. Bulloch’s come from behind win on the road at Bethesda Day last week was further proof that the Gators can come up big when necessary and another win or two in the final weeks of the regular season will send them to the playoffs once again.
The last Bulloch County school — Southeast Bulloch — is struggling on the football field, but making up for it on the softball diamond. The Lady Yellow Jackets are composed mainly of underclassmen, but are still a force to be reckoned with in the Class-AA state playoffs.
After taking second place in the hyper-competitive Region 3-AA, SEB made quick work of its first round state playoff opponent, dispatching Monticello in a sweep last week.
Wednesday, the Jackets will try to keep up the good work and advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.