Even in weeks where no Bulloch County teams won a game, those didn’t compare to the heartbreak suffered by some of the local teams this week.
Southeast Bulloch lost their de facto championship game to a Jenkins team they had beaten the past two years, Statesboro was literally seconds away from scoring their first win of 2016 and Portal was banged up after leading in the first half against Wheeler.
Had it not been for Bulloch Academy’s 39-14 thrashing of Robert Toombs, you’d probably have to put all of Bullock County on suicide watch.
But there is a bright side for Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch. SEB will be favored to beat every team left on their schedule — as their last six opponents have a combined record of 8-15. Statesboro may actually be favored to win three of their four region games —Wayne County, South Effingham and New Hempstead have one win between them in 16 combined games.
Unfortunately, Portal won’t have the same luxury. The Panthers will play four, consecutive state playoff teams who are a combined 13-3. While BA, who’s playing very well and sitting pretty at 3-1-1, could have a showdown looming with Frederica on Oct. 7 for a region title.
If there’s one good thing you can say about an 0-5 team, it’s that Statesboro continues to creep closer and closer to a win every week. Nothing this season came as close to a win, or a more thrilling game than the one against Appling County last Friday.
The first half of the game looked like the makings of blowout for Appling. Their star quarterback Keelan Crosby was running roughshod over Statesboro’s defense, going for 186 total yards and a touchdown in just 30 minutes. Even if the Blue Devil’s were able to slow down Crosby in the second half, he was just another dual-threat who was able to register a big game against the Statesboro defense.
But Statesboro, despite being outdone in yards per play by a 4.0 to 7.0 margin, found a way to fight back on the shoulders of Tupac Lanier. Lanier ran for a season high 82 yards at 5.5 yards a pop even after being sick most of the week leading up to the game. Lanier would score both touchdowns for Statesboro running the Wildpac offense.
Statesboro’s last two drives went inside the Appling 20, but neither would go on to produce points. It was a frustrating night for an offense who’s had such bad luck at the quarterback position this year, but one silver lining was that Lanier looked miles more comfortable in the offense compared to Effingham a week ago.
Of all the teams in the county this season, SEB took the biggest gut punch on Friday. The Yellow Jackets have improved every year since Pat Collins took over as head coach in 2010 and with a new region this season it seemed as if SEB was destined to win their first region title since before any of the players on their roster were born.
Jenkins was a team SEB had beaten two years in a row and had never lost to (4-0) in program history. It was really the only obstacle SEB had in route to that region title, but this was no ordinary Jenkins team the Yellow Jackets were running into. Coming into the game, Jenkins was 3-1 with their only loss being an 11-point defeat to undefeated Liberty County.
The Warriors opened up the offense in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns after SEB had scored initially to put the Yellow Jackets down 21-7 at half. SEB trailed 35-14 going into the fourth quarter, but then the Yellow Jackets would storm back on the shoulders of their star fullback Chase Walker.
Walker scored three times in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough as SEB would fall 41-34 in Savannah. SEB’s defensive woes continued in the game, as they’d give up two touchdowns of 70-plus yards on the night. While SEB’s title hopes aren’t completely dashed, they need to root for Savannah (4-1) and Windsor Forest (3-1) can shake things up with Jenkins while the Yellow Jackets will need to run the table the rest of the year.
BA has many reasons to be happy about their 2016 season. Outside their lone loss to GHSA foe Our Lady of Mercy, BA has played very well against GISA opponents. In four GISA games, BA has a point differential of +74 and as mentioned many times before — tied the 2015 state champions Memorial Day.
BA’’s offense has been the key to their success this season and it was no different on Friday. The Gators rushed for 259 yards behind the speed of Jake Mock and the power of Tyce Lovett while holding Robert Toombs to less than 200 yards of total offense. On top of a 39-14 win, it was the third time this season BA had beaten a team by 20 plus points.
Mock and Lovett would combine for over 180 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. The duo only seems to be getting better and better as the season rolls on, and even better for BA — quarterback Don Aaron finally seems to be getting more comfortable and settling into the offense in his first season as the full time starter.
On top of a defense that’s allowing 10.5 points a game in GISA play, BA is slowly beginning to look more and more like a serious playoff contender. If the Gators can keep up this level of play and carry this momentum, they only have one team left on their schedule with a record over .500 in Frederica. Don’t look now, but something’s brewing over at BA.
For a moment, Portal saw another glimmer of hope on Friday when they led Wheeler County 14-7 with five minutes left in the first half. It was the first time they had led a game since Portal was up on Treutlen 8-7 early in their first game of the season.
Alas, the turnover bug would continue to bite Portal in the rear end as they’d go on to throw three interceptions and lose a fumble in route to losing that lead and falling to Wheeler 30-14. It was the first time all season Portal’s offense had really moved the ball effectively in some spurts and saw consistent play from their senior-laden offensive line.
But the constant changing of possession is something that has become too consistent for this Portal offense. With out all their turnovers, who knows where this offense would be? The defense has been able to overachieve despite all of this trouble for the offense, leaving the mind to wonder where the real potential in this Portal team is.
Brian Ware and Billy Williams scored both touchdowns on the night for Portal, showcasing more and more talent from the running back position for Portal. It will be what carries Portal though the rest of the season as their schedule will become brutal starting this Friday against Savannah Country Day.