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Rivalry game has playoff implications for Gators

    It’s one of the biggest rivalries of the year in GISA football. Anytime Pinewood and Bulloch Academy play, there’s a lot of pride on the line. But this year, playoff implications add a little extra drama to a rivalry already filled with excitement.
    Pinewood (9-0, 3-0 Region 2-AAA) enters the final game of the season with an undefeated record and can secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a win over Bulloch Academy. However, the Gators will look to spoil the Patriots’ fun on senior night.
    “We need to beat Pinewood. Bottom line. They’re our biggest rivals,” said Bulloch Academy head coach Terence Hennessy. “I want to beat Pinewood. I want to ruin their perfect season. I’ll take the No. 3 seed if it means we’re 9-2 and we beat Pinewood. That’s the way our kids feel about it.”
    If the Gators (8-2, 2-1) can pull of a win against the Patriots, it sets up a three-way tie for the No. 1 seed in the region between Pinewood, Bulloch Academy and Frederica Academy.
    Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s matchup between Bulloch Academy and Pinewood, the Gators will at least be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
    “We’re in (the playoffs) no matter what,” Hennessy said. “My thing is, I’m not worried about that. We want to finish the season strong and beat Pinewood. If we turn out the region champions great but wherever we finish, I’m still happy with it.”
    The tiebreaker will be points allowed in the first half of head-to-head matchups. Here’s a look at possible scenarios for the Gators.
    Scenarios for No. 3 seed:
    If the Gators lose, Bulloch Academy will wind up with the No. 3 seed. The No. 3 seed is the lowest possible seed BA could have at this point in the season.
    Bulloch Academy would play the winner of Friday’s game between John Milledge and Gatewood.
    Scenarios for No. 2 seed:
    The Gators securing the No. 2 seed is an unlikely scenario, said coach Hennessy but it could happen. 
    Frederica has given up 31 first half points this year in head-to-head matchups which means the Gators would have to score 26 points against Pinewood in the first half, and give up more than nine points. Frederica would then move up to the No.1 seed and Pinewood would fall to No. 3.
    “Odds of that happening are slim to none,” Hennessy said.
    The Gators would play the loser of the John Millegde and Gatewood game.
    Scenario for No. 1 seed:
    First and foremost, the Gators need to win their matchup with Pinewood in order to have a shot at the No. 1 seed.
    The Gators would need to score 17 first half points and give up no more than eight points in the first two quarters.
    Bulloch Academy will dress out just 25 players in Friday’s game, but the Gators have the speed and firepower to overcome the lack of depth.
    Hennessy said it would be a tough decision on whether he would play for a region title, or play to win the game against Pinewood.
    “I’ve never been put in this situation before,” said Hennessy, laughing. “It’s rough. If it’s 14-0 at the first half, am I going to take chances? Oh yeah. If it’s 10-7 with five minutes left (in the first half) I’m going to play it like I want to win this football game. Winning the game is more important.”
    If Bulloch Academy secures the No. 1 seed Friday, the Gators will face Augusta Prep in the first round of the playoffs.