PERRY -- Bulloch Academy came 26 yards shy of a monumental upset of the second-ranked Westfield Hornets Friday night.
A fourth-and-four pass attempt at the Westfield 26 with 1:01 left in the game fell to the turf as the Hornets survived a lightning fast, fourth-quarter charge by the Gators to take a 28-21 Region 1-AAA victory.
Westfield (4-0 overall and 2-0 in the region) took a 22-7 lead late in the third quarter but the Gators (3-2, 1-2) roared back to force the dramatic ending.
“We didn’t play well enough to win in the first half,” said BA head coach Clint Morgan, “but we came out hard in the third quarter. We had our chances. We just didn’t take advantage of them.”
The Gators created 10 fumbles and recovered five of them to halt Westfield drives. Harrison Averitt fell on two of the bouncing balls while Blaine Lovett, Morris Prince and Caleb Bohannon had one each.
But the Westfield defense only allowed one score off the misques.
After Averitt recovered a botched fair catch in the second quarter, Lestonz Lewis lined up at wingback, took the pitch from quarterback Brandon Walker and scampered 19 yards for the Gators’ first score. John Harden’s PAT knotted the score at 7-7 with 7:32 left in the half. Lewis led the BA ground game with 81 tough yards on 11 carries.
After the score, the Hornets went on a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Fullback John Lee blasted in from three yards out with :41 left in the second quarter. He also converted the two-point conversion for a 15-7 halftime lead. Lee led Westfield with 152 yards and two score.
The third quarter was a defensive battle as the Gator defense bent but didn’t break. Bulloch had a scoring opportunity at the 3:39 mark when Harden lined up for a 43-yard field goal. But Westfield blocked the attempt and used it as a springboard for their next scoring drive.
Starting at their own five-yard line, the Hornets got a 47-yard run from Lee and a 17-yarder from Jared Parnell. Parnell, who had 97 yards on 10 carries, plunged over from four yards out for the 22-7 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, BA’s Ellis Lane wove his way through the Hornet defense for a 38-yard return. A bit of trickery paid off on the next play. Walker pitched the ball to Chris Young and Young threw a 42-yard strike to Harrison Averitt, who got down to the Westfield 11. On the next play, Walker kept the ball around the corner for the score with 22 seconds remaining, cutting the lead to 22-14.
Westfield took the kickoff and went on another time-consuming, scoring drive. The Hornets had a 14-play, 81-yard drive to take a 28-14 lead after WF kicker Landon Beamon missed the PAT.
A 50-yard kickoff return by Lewis set Bulloch in business at the Hornet 40. Jaylen Evans dodged and ducked his way for a 32-yard run down to the WF 6. Two plays later, Walker connected with Evans on a six-yard pass to cut the score to 28-21 with 4:17 left.
Bulloch’s defense stopped the powerful Hornets and the Gators got the ball back with 3:10 left.
Lewis had a 25-yard run and Evans had an eight yarder but a penalty backed Bulloch up to its own 43 with 2:25 left. Walker got seven on a scramble and then connected with Evans on an 18-yard pass to the Westfield 32 with 1:48 remaining.
The Hornet defense covered the Gator receivers well as Walker could only manage a six-yard scramble down to the 26-yard line. Walker’s pass attempt on fourth-and-four with 1:01 left fell to the grass as the ball went over on downs.