HALLSVILLE - Atlanta rushed for 391 yards while holding Bullard to 27 in a 44-22 victory on Saturday in their Class 4A Division I bi-district playoff at Bobcat Stadium.
Atlanta (7-4) moves on to face Coldspring-Oakhurst next week in the area round.
Atlanta quarterback Jeremy Smith rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns with tailback Tyrell Phillips rushing for 154 yards and two scores, while also catching a 9-yard TD pass from Smith.
Bullard quarterback Cleet Bowman passed for 159 yards and two scores in a loss as the Panthers complete their season at 7-4.
“It has really been a great season. It has been one of the most fun and rewarding for me,” Bullard coach Shannon Wilson said. “The bad part about losing in the playoffs is you don’t get to work with those guys the next week. I love coming to work with these kids.”
The Panthers had prided themselves on being a run-stopping team. Bullard had surrendered 100 yards combined rushing only three times this season.
Smith surpassed 100 yards rushing by himself before the end of the first quarter, thanks to a 71-yard touchdown run. It was one of two scoring runs for Smith in the first half as the Rabbits took a 21-0 lead.
“We knew coming in that their speed was going to be an issue,” Wilson said. “Credit to them, they did a good job, but we did not have the right fits like we usually do, and we are usually more technically sound than we were today, and that was disappointing.”
The Panthers offense sputtered before a fake punt gave Bullard life. Before Atlanta could react, Hood Taylor connected with an uncovered Nic Costas for a 21-yard gain. A pass interference on a pass attempt to Major Tennison moved the Panthers into the Atlanta red zone.
On second-and-goal, Tre Crayton cruised in from 6 yards out to make it 21-6. The Panthers then successfully used the swinging gate formation to overload one side and enable Jake Johnson to force his way into the end zone to make it 21-8 at halftime.
Atlanta led 28-8 in the third quarter when Bowman connected with Major Tennison on a 40-yard touchdown. That cut the deficit to 28-14, but on the extra-point try, an Atlanta player blocked it straight to Kelton Young, who returned it 83 yards the other way for two points for the Rabbits and a 30-14 lead.
“We had some opportunities in this game that we have to capitalize on,” Wilson said. “Honestly that (blocked kick return) was a momentum swing. We lost a chance to gain momentum with that.
You just score and you kickoff and everything is good and then (that happened).”
Atlanta scored twice in the fourth quarter to end any more comeback thoughts.
Bullard grabbed a final touchdown in the closing seconds when Bowman lofted a deep pass to Nic Costas for a 43-yard touchdown. The Panthers got the 2-point play on a pass from Drake Daly to Tennison to end the scoring and the game.
Class 4A Division I Bi-District Playoff
Atlanta 44, Bullard 22
At Bobcat Stadium, Hallsville
Bullard 0 8 6 8 - 22
Atlanta 14 7 9 14 - 44
ATL-Tyrell Phillips 3 run (Conley Richardson kick), 7:13
ATL-Jeremy Smith 71 run (Richardson kick), :24
ATL-Smith 4 run (Richardson kick), 7:29
BUL-Tre Crayton 6 run (Jake Johnson run), 4:52
ATL-Phillips 9 pass from Smith (Richardson kick), 10:12
BUL-Major Tennison 40 pass from Cleet Bowman, 4:33
ATL-Kelton Young returns blocked PAT 83 yards, 4:33
ATL-Phillips 2 run (Richardson kick), 7:53
ATL-Young 35 run (Richardson kick), 1:59
BUL-Nic Costas 43 pass from Bowman (Drake Draly pass to Tennison), :04
First Downs 9 22
Rushes-Yards 25-27 57-391
Passing Yards 180 63
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-24-0 3-6-0
Punts-Avg. 5-39 1-35
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-42 8-70
RUSHING-Bullard, Jake Johnson 9-12, Tre Crayton 5-14, Luke Bowman 5-1, Drake Daly 1-6, Brooks Parham 2-6, Cleet Bowman 2-(minus 12). Atlanta, Jeremy Smith 26-199, Tyrell Phillips 29-154, Kelton Young 2-38.
PASSING-Bullard, Bowman 12-23-0 159, Hood Taylor 1-1-0 21. Atlanta, Smith 3-6-0 63.
RECEIVING-Bullard, Nic Costas 4-71, Daly 4-21, Major Tennison 3-62, Bowman 2-20. Atlanta, Carson Lambert 2-54, Phillips 1-9.