Georgia Southern vs. Furman, Statesboro vs. Wayne County, Portal vs. Metter, Southeast Bulloch vs. Screven County — great rivalries help players get motivated for great games.
Bulloch Academy head coach Ronnie Hodges hopes this football axiom will help his Gators mentally prepare for their greatest rival, the Pinewood Christian Academy Patriots.
With last Friday night’s loss to Southland in Americus, Bulloch (3-6, 0-4) is officially out of the GISA Class AAA playoff picture. The Patriots (5-3-1, 2-2) have wrapped up the fourth seed in Region 1-AAA and will travel next week for post-season play.
The only thing on the line tonight in Bellville in this storied rivalry is pride.
“Pinewood is our main rivalry,” Hodges said of the Evans County team. “The kids know each other as do many of their parents. Alumni on both sides come from miles around to see the game. The schools are only about 25 miles apart. Bragging rights for years to come go along with the outcome of this game.”
But, it may be tough to come away from Lowell Coley Field with a win.
“They probably have the best team that they have had in three years,” said Hodges. “They are experienced, well coached and well disciplined. The Johnson kid makes them go. He is their leader.”
Senior quarterback Dalton Johnson leads the Patriot shotgun offense. According to the GISA Stats website, Johnson has rushed for 579 yards and four touchdowns. Through the air, he is 32-of-65 for 499 yards and another four touchdowns.
“He seems to do it all,” said Hodges. “He is a very fine football player.
A veteran offensive line protects and opens holes for Johnson as well as for Preston Campbell.
“Campbell is a very hard runner and an excellent blocker,” said Hodges.
The Patriots are in the shotgun formation approximately 95 percent of the time and Johnson’s favorite targets to throw to are Brenley Hagan and Joshua Barnard.
On defense, Pinewood runs a four-man front.
“They have a good crew of linebackers,” said Hodges. “They are very talented and move well to the ball.”
Hodges would like nothing more for his squad than to wind up the season with a win. Even though the injury-ridden Gators are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, they have played well at times. Giving up the big play on defense and the inability to maintain a sustained drive on offense has been Bulloch’s downfall this season. The Gators have one final chance this year to try and put all the pieces together.
“We’ve had a good week at practice,” he said. “It didn’t start out that way but it has gotten better every day. Since it’s our last game of the season, some of our injured seniors have gotten clearance to play a down or two if possible. I hope the kids will be up for the game because we want our seniors to go out on a winning note.”