The Bears closed out their regular season last week with a win over Southeast Bulloch 17-7 in Brooklet. In doing so, they clinched the number three seed and will travel to face the Region 4, number two seed, LaGrange Grangers, this Saturday in Calloway Stadium.
This marks the 16th straight season that Burke County has advanced to the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) playoffs under head coach Eric Parker. However, Parker will not be on the sidelines after suffering a heart attack last Monday during the Bears’ game against Wayne County. Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, Anthony Williams, is overseeing coaching duties during Parker’s absence.
Region 4 has shown itself to be a tough division with four of its teams ranked in the top 15 in class AAAA in recent weeks. For its part, Region 3 has had the three teams of Benedictine, Burke and Wayne County ranked for several weeks as well.
LaGrange was in danger of missing the playoffs but their upset of Troup last Friday night allowed the Grangers to take the second spot.
“LaGrange – that name has some prestige behind it,” said Coach Williams. “They’ve had some great teams in the past.”
Just like Burke County, La- Grange is 8-2 in the regular season with their two losses coming from fellow region opponents. Williams ticked off a list of issues the Bears will have to contend with Saturday night.
“We’re expecting a hardfought game. Watching them on film, they’ve got some athletes all over the place, some size. So, we’re expecting a battle. We’ve been in a couple of those this season and we’re expecting no less in the first round,” he said.
Friday’s win over Southeast Bulloch capped the end of a tough two weeks where the Bears played their final three region games, two of which were on the road, and watched helplessly when Parker collapsed on the sideline in Jesup.
Williams said he believed the kids had been able to put that behind them now and are focused on what lies ahead for the team.
“ I think the kids have bounced back. I think with them seeing Coach Parker Thursday and also Friday before we left, that put their minds at ease. And he’s doing well, he’s recovering. If we keep this thing moving, maybe he’ll get a chance to stand on the sidelines with us,” Williams said.
Burke County scored on its first drive Friday night against Southeast Bulloch (SEB) on a 1-yard run by Charlie Dorsey. The point after kick and a 33-yard field goal by Blake Burden later in the first quarter put the Bears up 10-0 early. The Yellow Jackets refused to lay down however, and neither team would score again until late in the fourth quarter.
With just under 6 minutes to play, SEB would score their only touchdown. The successful point after would close the gap to 10-7.
The Bears would find the end zone again to ice the game with 2:28 left to play on a 2-yard score by Marshall Flowers. Burden’s kick would secure the final score of 17-7.
Williams admitted the score and the game were closer than he would have liked but he hadn’t expected SEB to lay down in their final game.
“They were pretty good on defense. We really couldn’t get a rhythm going. We had a couple of kids that were out. Just really couldn’t find a rhythm. When we got one gong, we would miss a pass here or there or something like that. Their record does not indicate how good they are. Their defense played us tough,” Williams said.
The Bears had 298 yards of total offense compared to the Yellow Jackets’ 123. Burke County held SEB to just 47 passing yards and 76 rushing yards. The Bears had 132 yards through the air and 166 on the ground.
Flowers was 9 of 17 passes for 132 yards and one interception. He had 11 carries for 29 yards and 1 touchdown. Dorsey had 134 rushing yards and 1 touchdown.
The number one seed from Region 3, Benedictine, will face Region 4 number 4 seed, Whitewater. Region 4 number 3 seed, Trinity Christian, will travel to face number 2 seed Wayne County and Region 3 number 4 seed, New Hampstead, will travel to face Troup, the number 1 seed from Region 4. All three of those games are set for this Friday night.