Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week
By SAM McGAW
Last year’s revival of the Battle Ground Academy-Page rivalry was such a good battle the programs decided to have an encore.
BGA welcomes its former longtime rival Friday, on the same night it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its 1966 state championship football team.
The Wildcats won last season’s matchup 28-27 in overtime after Page failed to score on a two-point conversion attempt.
It was the first time the two teams played in over 25 years.
“I think (the rivalry) is great for BGA, great for Page and great for Williamson County,” BGA head coach Roc Batten said. “Last year was an exciting game — down to the wire in overtime — and I wouldn’t expect anything different.”
BGA looks to build from its 52-45 loss against University School of Jackson last week. The teams combined for 1,037 yards and nine turnovers in the shootout.
“We gave up some big plays on defense and really put ourselves in a hole on offense with some turnovers,” Batten said. “We saw we’re a team that can fight back. We were down 20 points two different times in the game. Even though we didn’t win, I saw a lot of fight in our team that we can build off of.”
Wildcats’ Offense vs. Patriots’ Defense
Last week’s defeat was the fourth straight game the Wildcats scored more than 31 points.
Quarterback Drew Martin (1,184 pass yds, 11 TDs, 4 INTs) leads the up-tempo attack.
The junior completed 39 of 66 passes for 424 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions last week.
“After our first loss, this is a pivotal point in our season,” Martin stated. “We can either lie down or we can step up to the challenge and win this game. That’ll really set us up for the rest of the season.”
Martin is surrounded by an arsenal of weapons, starting with running back/slot receiver Kel Hawkins.
The junior has been a spark plug all season, racking up 288 receiving yards, 249 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
BGA’s other top playmakers include junior receivers Oliver Reese (20 rec., 358 yds, 3TDs) and Jack Jewell (14 rec., 276 yds, 3 TDs), and sophomore running back Jaylen Frierson (220 rush yds, 4 TDs).
The group faces their toughest challenge to date against a stiff Page defense that’s allowed an average of 16.5 points per game.
“They fly around to the ball and are physical up front,” Batten said. “We just have to be very sound in what we’re trying to do and protect the football. Last week was one of few games that we really put it on the ground this year. We have to protect the football going into this week.”
Patriots’ Offense vs. Wildcats’ Defense
USJ’s 52 points last week were the most the Wildcats have allowed in a game since 2001.
They’ll look to get back on track against a Patriots’ offense that averages 17.5 points per game.
“We need to get tougher,” BGA inside linebacker Julian Craig said. “We need our young players to step up and everyone has to grow up, including myself. Our secondary has to play better and our linebackers have to fill holes better.”
Page quarterback Jacob Van Landingham and receivers Andrew Metkler and Will Pierce have a chance to attack a BGA secondary that gave up 463 yards and five touchdowns through the air last week.
Van Landingham recorded 115 passing yards, 40 rushing yards and three touchdowns (2 rush) in last week’s 20-7 win at Lawrence County.
Metkler caught two of those passes for 58 yards and a score.
Freshman Bubba Johnson spearheads the ground attack. He rushed for 124 yards last week.
“They’re a big-play team,” Batten said. “Either it’s a big run or they have three or four really good receivers who can stretch the field vertically. They can also catch the short game and make guys miss. They create big plays and we have to slow down their big-play ability, get to the quarterback and we have to do a better job as a team tackling.”
Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.