Rises, falls and more heartbreak were the themes of Bulloch County football last week.
These are trends that appear to have solidified amongst the four local teams with no apparent signs of change coming soon. For Statesboro and Portal, they’re still winless. For Southeast Bulloch, taking care of business against an inferior team. For Bulloch Academy, another win officially moved them into the top 10 of the GISA class 3A rankings.
Statesboro lost another heartbreaker to Tattnall County, falling 31-24 after being up 24-16 in the fourth quarter. Portal lost to Savannah Country Day 35-7 in a game where the offense was stagnant. Southeast Bulloch crushed Windsor Forest 42-6, but will need help from two other in-region schools if they want to win their region.
Bulloch Academy on the other hand, now 4-1-1, has a showdown looming this Friday against Frederica to possibly decide their region title. Who would have thought the school with less than 500 students would have the best football outlook in 2016?
As the cliche goes, history repeats itself. For Statesboro, it’s all too recent history that keeps repeating itself week after week. Every game seems to follow the same script: Statesboro fights, Statesboro hangs with opponent, Statesboro goes into the fourth quarter still hanging in, Statesboro loses. It’s a four part story that never gets any easier.
Last week was perhaps the saddest chapter in that book to date. Statesboro was up 24-16 on Tattnall with seven minutes and change left in the game. But a 62-yard run the following drive and a 51-yard fumble recovery by Tattnall with just over two minutes left sucked the positivity right out of Womack Stadium.
To make matter worse, Statesboro -- just as was the case against Appling County -- had the ball in the final drive to try and tie the game. But as was the case two weeks ago, Statesboro couldn’t get out of bounds after burning all their timeouts, forcing an improvised fourth-down play that ended the game in the most deflating way possible.
The feeling of despair after the game soiled the fact Tupac Lanier had the best game of his high school career while guiding Statesboro’s offense to their best offensive performance of the season. Lanier accounted for 254 of Statesboro’s 334 total yards of offense, which was the Blue Devil’s highest total of the season by a long shot -- the next closest the opener against Burke County with 204.
SEB responded nicely on a short week following their crushing 41-34 defeat last week to Jenkins. With that game two weeks ago being the de facto region championship game, it was paramount SEB crushes every other team in their path the rest of the season -- which they did easily against Windsor Forest.
SEB’s dominated from the opening snap, leading 42-0 the entire game before Windsor Forest scored a pity-touchdown at the end of the game to prevent the shutout. It was a nice bounce-back game for the defense as well, forcing two turnovers and playing a nice brand of “bend-don’t-break” defense to keep Windsor Forest out of the endzone.
Even though Windsor Forest moved the ball on the ground decently between the twenties, SEB consistently tightened up in a way they couldn’t against Jenkins. Overall, it was a solid win against a team SEB was supposed to beat -- which should be the case from now until the end of the regular season for the Yellow Jackets.
Chase Walker and Jontrell Wells combined for all six of SEB’s touchdowns, with Walker gaining 191 of SEB’s 267 rushing yards on the night. The “thunder-and-lightning” combination have been the best aspect of SEB’s team all season and will have to continue to do so for the Yellow Jackets to sustain success.
BA extended their winning streak to three games this season after their destruction of Edmund Burke Academy 41-13. This game wasn’t always destined to be a blowout though, as winless Edmund Burke had this a tie game midway through the second quarter.
Tied 7-7, the ever explosive Jake Mock took back the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown -- Mock’s second return TD of the year. Even still, BA only led 14-7 going into halftime with Edmund Burke sniffing a potential upset on their home field.
But BA wouldn’t hesitate to wake up and hang 21 on the Spartans in the third quarter, with the third touchdown coming off a pick-six. BA would call off the dogs in the fourth quarter, but their second half performance showcased BA’s real strengths: rushing offense and a stingy defense.
It’s the third week in a row the Gator defense has held opponents to under 15 points and forced at least one turnover. Mock, along with Tyce Lovett and Brandon Merrill combined to rush for over 200 yards again with no signs of slowing down. It all comes to a point when BA faces 6-0 Frederica Friday for what should be the region title to see if the Gators are a true state title contender.
After seeing the offense move the ball consistently against Wheeler County, it was a small disappointment to see Portal take a step back in that regard against Savannah Country Day. Portal netted zero, yes zero, yards of offense in the first half as the Panthers offensive line struggled mightily to contain or even block the Hornet front seven.
Given that Portal’s offense couldn’t move the ball even a foot, the Panther defense was consistently put in bad field position and couldn’t hold SCD’s offense on such short fields. SCD’s combination of heavy dosage runs mixed with play-action passes were good enough to score 35 points in the first half on just seven possessions.
SCD would rest their starters in the second half, allowing Portal’s defense to shut out the Hornets for the remainder of the game. However the offense still struggled to move the ball, finally preventing the shutout with a two-yard run by running back Craig Ware in the fourth quarter.
Much like Statesboro, it’s been much of the same story for Portal all season long. An offense that struggles to move and a defense that’s consistently over matched. With health issues plaguing the Panthers at quarterback, things may not change for the better for Portal and that’s coupled with a grueling schedule ahead of them too.