Seldom does one player make as significant a difference in a game as Bulloch Academy's Harry Collins did in the Briarwood Buccaneers 26-13 loss to the Gators last Friday in Statesboro.
"We made three mistakes, and he scored three times," Coach Jimmy Barnett said. "He's got such tremendous speed and balance. He's just as good as I heard he would be."
In other aspects of the game, the Buccaneers matched Bulloch, the number one ranked team in GISA Class AA. (The Bucs compete in Class AA ball, but are in a different region.) The Bucs had 210 total yards as compared to the Gators 247 yards. Both teams had 10 first downs. The Bucs led in passing. Quarterback David Russell was 5-for-18 passing for 119 yards to Joseph Batrous, Dave Joesbury, and Kyle Ewest, while the Gators were 4-for-12 passing for 54 yards. The Gators led in rushing with 193 yards on 39 carries, while the Bucs gained 91 yards on 25 carries.
The difference in the game was the five turnovers the Bucs made, three fumbles and two interceptions. Bulloch fumbled twice and recovered both.
"We don't have any excuses," Coach Barnett said. "Should'a, could'a, would'a is over. We could have beaten that crowd. We put the ball on the ground from a lack of concentration, and we shouldn't be doing that now. We made three critical mistakes, and we lost."
The Bucs opened the game by kicking off to Bulloch and then forcing them to punt on the second series of downs. The Bucs took the ball on their own 20 and, three plays later, fumbled with the Gators recovering on the Bucs' 23-yard line.
The Gators' Collins scored on the first play after the fumble. The PAT kick was good and the Gators led 7-0 early in the first quarter.
The Bucs took the ensuing kickoff and made a first down before fumbling again. Bulloch recovered and took over the ball on the Bucs' 49-yard line on the first play of the second series of downs. This time, the Bucs held, forcing Bulloch to punt on a fourth and nine.
In the second quarter, the Bucs took a Bulloch punt on their 46-yard line. The Bucs combined a running and passing attack, including a 32-yard pass from quarterback David Russell to Joseph Batrous on the eight-yard line. Two plays later Russell scored from the six. The PAT kick was blocked, allowing Bulloch to maintain a one-point lead, 7-6.
Bulloch took the kickoff on their own 33 and marched downfield, scoring on a 15-yard run and then adding the extra point to go up 14-6
The Bucs took the kickoff on their own 44-yard line. Three plays later Bulloch intercepted and returned the ball to the Bucs' 35-yard line. Collins scored on a 31-yard TD run on the third play from scrimmage. The Bucs blocked the kick to hold the Gators' lead to 20-6 at the half.
The two teams battled it out in the third quarter before the Bucs took control late in the quarter. The Bucs fielded a punt on their own 40-yard line and ground their way downfield before scoring on a 21-yard pass play from Russell to Batrous. Chris Gerlach kicked the extra point to put the Bucs back in the ball game.
Down 20-13 late in the third, the Bucs couldn't get the ball back. The Gators slowly made their way downfield before finally scoring on a one-yard run. The Bucs blocked the extra point to hold the score at 26-13.
Senior tackle Will Quinn is another hard worker for the Bucs, and that's why he was tapped for Defensive Player of the Week honors, according to Coach Barnett.
"The average fan can't tell what he's doing," Coach Barnett says of the Bucs' tackle. "You don't get much glory in the middle of the line, but he's in there playing. You can depend on him. He bottled Collins up in there."
Offensive Player of the Week honors went to junior Joseph Batrous who, in addition to scoring the Bucs' final TD on a 21-yard pass reception, made a critical first down on a 16-yard run on third and 15.
Overall, there were a lot of good things about the game, according to Coach Barnett.
Quarterback Russell withstood the "heat" and threw the ball well.
"He threw the football with poise and precision," Coach Barnett said. "We weren't just slinging the ball around the field. Russell had some heat on him, and he sat in the pocket and threw the ball."
Two players who will be seeing an increase in their playing time are sophomores Hughlon Mays and John Spivey.
Mays came in to the game at cornerback and did an excellent job containing Collins, Coach Barnett said.
Middle linebacker Spivey "stepped up into the hold and knocked him (Collins) down flat" in the best "lick" of the game, according to Coach Barnett.
"They've proven to me that they're ready to play, and they're both going to get a bigger role in our defense," Coach Barnett said.
Junior Chris Gerlach "came out of nowhere and has the potential of starting on both sides," according to Coach Barnett.
"He's got a big role on this team," Coach Barnett continued about Gerlach, who, in addition to kicking for the Bucs, is playing cornerback on defense and halfback on offense.
"Chris just works hard," he said of Gerlach's success. "He doesn't give up."
The Bucs will open their Region 1AA schedule this Friday night when they travel to North Augusta, S.C., to face Curtis Baptist School of Augusta.
Briarwood 13, Bulloch 26
Star of the game: Joseph Batrous was the Offensive Player of the Game and Will Quinn was the Defensive Player of the Game.
Plays of the game: The story of the game for Briarwood was turnovers. The Bucs comitted three fumbles and lost two interceptions against Bulloch.
Up Next: Briarwood (2-2) hits the road to play Curtis Baptist.