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My Take: First impressions
Portal linebacker Trent Thomas, top, tackles Southeast Bulloch's Cole Carter, bottom right, and Michael Davis after the two bobbled a hand-off in the fourth quarter Friday.

It was a solid start to the 2013 football season for all four Bulloch County schools last week. Bulloch Academy blazed a trail to a 45-0 rout, Statesboro once again prevailed in its annual tooth-and-nail street fight against Lakeside, and Southeast Bulloch and Portal — while neither can claim a win just yet — showed some grit and defensive muscle in their 0-0 tie that will come in handy once the offenses get in gear.
    All of these teams are far from a one-man show, but the beginning of the season is when seasoned veterans can take that next step and become stars. Similarly, this is also the time where players who previously served as backups can announce their presence and start building a name for themselves.
    There is still plenty of football to play, but if the first week of action was any indication, here are some names to keep an eye on moving forward.

Will Rushing,  Bulloch Academy
    The Gators of Bulloch Academy weren’t quite sure what to expect when they hit the field against St. Andrew’s last week. Back in the spring, the main focus was to find a quarterback to fit the team’s option system, but just about anything that could have gone wrong did.
    Lanier Olliff seemed to be the man for the job, but he was injured during baseball season and will be out for at least a few more weeks. Will Rushing took over, but as fall practice came around, harsh weather conditions provided little opportunity for Rushing to see live action and get up to game speed.
    When the lights came on, Rushing looked like he had been leading the offense his entire life. The sophomore connected on 3-of-5 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown, reeled off a few impressive runs, and consistently made the right reads to get the ball to the Gator set up to do the most damage.
    If Rushing can continue to build off of his first varsity start, Bulloch shouldn’t have anything to worry about under center.

Colin Chance, Statesboro
    Colin Chance did an admirable job in his first season as the starting quarterback for Statesboro High last season. Chance threw the ball a bit in 2012, but was mostly content to hand it off to the deep contingent of running backs at the Devils’ disposal.
    Statesboro still has a solid running game, but Chance showed the offense’s evolution into a much more diverse threat in the opening win over Lakeside. Not only was Statesboro at ease letting Chance air it out, the veteran hit on 11-13 attempts, including some critical third down conversions in the second half.
    Going along with Chance’s powerful right arm is his size. Standing at 6-feet and outweighing some of his running backs, Chance is a powerful and durable runner in the option game that will add another dimension to the SHS attack.

Trent Thomas,  Portal
    During the 0-0 tie between Southeast Bulloch and Portal, SEB ran a total of 52 plays. On almost half of those plays, junior linebacker Trent Thomas was on the scene.
    “(Assistant coach Josh) Thompson told me that he counted 24 tackles,” Portal coach David NeSmith said. “I had to look at the tape myself, but all 24 tackles were there. I’ve been coaching for 18 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
    Thomas is new to Portal this year after transferring in from Metter and didn’t hesitate to make his presence known. Throughout last season, Portal put gifted athletes in its linebacking corps, but suffered as a small roster forced players to go both ways and wear down late in games.
    Thomas adds another able body on the roster and — if the first week’s performance continues — a force to be reckoned with for any team trying to run on the Panthers this season.

Simba Fields, Southeast Bulloch
    Given the tie game, it’s only fitting that an individual defensive performance by a Portal player was matched by a Yellow Jacket on the SEB sideline.
    Heading into the season, the Jackets were confident in the duo of Marshall Duke and Kaelin Jones holding down the fort on the defensive line. Both had solid games against Portal, but any Panther making it through those two still had to tangle with Simba Fields.
    Fields recorded six solo tackles in the game and assisted on seven others. Helping against both the running and passing game of Portal, Fields was a big part of the Jackets’ effort in allowing just 117 yards of total offense to Portal on the night.
    Facing a down-on-its-luck Montgomery County this week, the Jackets’ offense might find much more success. If Fields and the defensive unit continue their stellar play, the ‘points allowed’ category on the stat sheet might remain stuck on 0 for a bit longer.

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