By CHRIS STANLEY
As the cliche goes — when it rains, it pours.
Football has seen better days in Bulloch County. It’s been a recurring theme all season, but now nine weeks in it’s clear that things aren’t turning around for the four Bulloch County teams.
Bulloch Academy, marred by injuries to some of its best players, dropped from potentially winning their first region title since 2009 to falling behind Frederica and Trinity Dublin to the fourth seed in their region. Statesboro suffered another bad loss in region play, as did Portal.
Southeast Bulloch was the only team to pick up a win against a pitiful Groves squad, but as of now sit as a four-seed on their region and are a bubble playoff team.
There isn’t much else to salvage this for any of the teams. Statesboro could be a four seed of they beat South Effingham this week, but that’s certainly not a given. SEB will have to win out to stay as the four and potentially the three seed, while BA is facing an undefeated Heritage in the first round.
As for Portal, it’ll take a heaven’s miracle for them to get back into the playoff picture.
Statesboro has gotten off to as bad of a start as you can in 2016 region play. After dropping their region opener to Ware County 29-0, SHS had to come back on just four days rest to play New Hampstead and were subsequently dropped 40-16.
Statesboro gave up 416 yards and six touchdowns alone to quarterback Calvin Turner, all while turning the ball over a season-high five times. This team which looked competitive despite being winless through the first six games now looks simply distraught. Granted health has been an issue for Statesboro all season, but things have gotten worse as the weeks bear on.
What was more alarming for the Blue Devil’s is the regression of the offense. After gradually improving as a whole and Tupac Lanier looking better as a signal caller — Statesboro has scored just 16 points in their last two games.
The bigger point? Statesboro’s last two games could be some of the biggest in program history. The last Statesboro team to go winless was the 1939 team that went 0-4-2, but an 0-10 team would be the worst team record wise in school history. This senior class certainly doesn’t want that stain on their legacy at such a storied program.
On the bright side for a county school, Southeast Bulloch got back to winning ways on Saturday with a big win over Groves 49-6. As usual, fullback Chase Walker was stellar with 209 yards on just 11 carries and two touchdowns. The case can be made for Walker that he’s been the best combination of production and consistency in the county this season.
SEB got a nice surprise through the air as well, with Caleb Carter tossing two touchdown passes on just four attempts. Josh Proctor scored touchdowns on both sides of the ball and the SEB defense — which has had their struggles this season — held the Groves offense to just 3.2 yards per play.
The storyline for SEB now lies in their region standing. Currently the Yellow Jackets stand fourth behind Jenkins, Islands and Savannah in that order. Currently 3-2, SEB has a tie breaker with Windsor Forest and has already beat Islands 42-8. All SEB can do at this point is win out, which shouldn’t be too hard considering Beach and Johnson are a combined 2-12.
Islands — 3-1 in region — still has to play Jenkins and Savannah, and presuming both those are losses SEB can move up to the three seed. But SEB must win out in order to keep their fans from sweating too much.
It’s hard to have your spirits dashed as hard as Bulloch Academy’s have been the past two weeks. Following their win over Frederica two weeks ago to claim control of the region, no one in the county — or possibly the GISA — was flying higher than the Gators.
Then the Gators followed that up by losing a controversial overtime game to Trinity Dublin 16-10, where a picked up flag on a horse collar tackle cost BA a first down. Not only did they lose the game, but BA lost one of the best players in the GISA in Jake Mock — who broke his leg and will not be suiting up again this season.
Then with the region championship on the line, BA was vaporised by rival Pinewood 46-14 in front of their homecoming crowd. Down Mock and two-way starter Brandon Merrill, BA was at a lack of weapons on offense and down depth on defense — where they gave up a season high 46 points. The second most they had given up in GISA play up to that point was 14.
Now, BA falls to the four-seed in their region and will have to travel to the Heritage School in Newnan — who are undefeated and region champions. BA now has a week to put their worst loss since 2014 behind them and somehow get healthy in order to pull an unlikely upset in the first round.
No team in the state of Georgia has drawn shorter straws this season than Portal. Hurricane Matthew completely nuked their schedule, forcing Portal to play on a Wednesday, a Monday and a Saturday. Portal’s Wednesday game started out well and very odd for the Panthers, as they came out to a 4-0 lead.
That was not a typo. A 4-0 lead on two safeties. McIntosh County Academy scored 34 unanswered points enroute to dropping Portal to 0-6 this season. Portal’s offense was once again a disaster, turning the ball over four times and giving up 17 tackles for loss.
Now, Portal gets to rest for just five days for their third game in just a week and a half against Savannah Christian. That’s three top-15 teams in 10 days — absolutely brutal. Especially when you’re the smallest football playing school in the state of Georgia, putting kids through that kind of a gauntlet seems barely fair.