As an undefeated Bethlehem Christian Academy got set this week to finally play its 2021 home opener after going through five consecutive road games to open the season, Knights head coach Bruce Lane reached back to the 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz” to describe the feeling and mood around the program.
“As Dorothy says, ‘there’s no place like home,’ Lane quipped, noting that his team hasn’t just been “road warriors” on Friday nights so far this season, but also for its practices.
That was until last week, when BCA finally got the chance to begin practicing on the all-new turf surface installed over the last several weeks at Knights Field. The Knights, who had been practicing on and hosted a preseason scrimmage at the synthetic turf field at Victor Lord Park a mile or so up Highway 11, will make their playing debut on their new home surface Friday, Sept. 24, when they welcome in Towns County for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“Now we can walk out of our gym and be within 75 yards of our facility,” Lane said. “It’s a great surface, and it’s always going to be a great playing surface because you don’t have to worry about rain or having footing issues on the field, things like that. It becomes a 24/7 kind of deal where it’s designed to have a lot of use. And with all the activities we have going on at our school throughout the year, this allows us to maximize usage.
“By now our kids are used to playing on the turf surface at Victor Lord Park, and we were very appreciative for the opportunity to use that facility. But I think it’s a point of pride. (Athletic director) Tim Early and our other administrators did a great job researching and finding the right company to do this, and the timing has worked really well.”
Friday’s game should come with significant build-up, as BCA returns home with its first-ever 5-0 record, having outscored its opponents 160-62 over the course of the road winning streak. Last week, in their longest trip of the season to Damascus near the Georgia-Florida line, the Knights picked up arguably their most impressive win of the year to date, topping Southwest Georgia Academy 35-14. BCA got another strong performance from junior quarterback Ben Reed, who threw for 197 yards on 9-of-13 passing and two touchdowns while adding a pair of scores on the ground and finishing with 56 yards on 11 carries. Sophomore running back Joshua Adams went over the 100-yard rushing mark again, racking up 166 yards on 20 carries and a 4-yard touchdown run while also catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from Reed. Senior Chandler Cavoretto added a 55-yard touchdown reception.
“In football, we talk about quality wins, and every win is special, but I feel like out of the games we’ve won the last couple years this was probably our signature win to this point, because, perennially (Southwest Georgia is) one of the top four or so teams in their classification,” said Lane, whose Knights are one of two undefeated teams remaining in GISA Class AAA — the other being two-time defending state champion and Region 4 foe John Milledge Academy, winners of 28 straight games.
“I thought our kids handled the game very well,” Lane said of the Sept. 17 victory over the Warriors. “Everything seemed to hit just perfect for us, and a pretty large group of people went down there to support our kids. We played a pretty complete game, and it was just gratifying to see their hard work pay off.”
Including the win at SWGA, BCA has now avenged three losses from its 2020 record and will have the chance to atone for another one Friday against Towns County. The Indians, a GHSA Class A program, enter the game at 3-1 and winners of two straight and are coming off a 38-17 triumph last week over Lakeview Academy.
Senior running back Kyle Oakes, who had a big game for the Indians in their 28-14 win over the Knights in Hiawassee a year ago, returns and is the main threat for the Towns County offense, while Lane described the Towns County defense as “stingy” with a talented three-man front.
“Coach (Jason) Roquemore has done a fantastic job there. He’s in year three now, and you can see how their program has gradually improved,” Lane said. “They’re a fundamentally-sound, well-coached team. These guys present maybe a different challenge than what we’ve seen to this point. Running back-wise, this is probably the best kid we’ve seen so far. They’re a physical group, and, again, it’s going to come down to blocking and tackling. Hopefully our kids will be ready for the challenge.”
Lane said he recognizes the anticipation of a team that is having unprecedented success at this point in the year finally getting to play in front of a larger chunk of its fan base and student body, but that the Knights are sticking to the same even-keel mentality from week to week.
“You have to always keep things in perspective,” he said. “One of the things we’ve talked about is you have to be humble with the success you’ve had, but hungry to continue the journey. Our kids are typical teenagers, and we know they’re excited about playing at home. But as coaches, we look at it a little bit differently and try to break it down into one week at a time. We’re trying to go 1-0 each week, and hopefully you can add up enough of those 1-0 weeks to make a successful season at the end.
“We’ve got the road routine down pretty good; now let’s see if we can figure out how to do things when we’re not having to go on the road.”