CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — With injuries depleting the Gordon Lee football roster, coach Charlie Wiggins has required Bryce Bailey to tackle multiple positions.
That hasn't been a problem, since Bailey hasn't had a problem tackling anything -- or anybody -- in 2012.
The Trojans' senior middle linebacker leads the area by having participated in 165 tackles this season. He's been a vital part of the 5-5 team that will visit Emanuel County Institute (9-1) in the Class A playoffs round of 16 tonight at 7:30.
The Bulldogs, the Region 3-A champions, have four guys who have rushed for more than 400 yards this season and five who have run for 89 or more in a game.
The tackles lead is something Bailey takes pride in, as it is his job to bring down opposing ball carriers. His role was expanded when fellow linebacker Blake Teeters was lost after the first game of the year.
"It's the best feeling in the world to light up a guy when he's going through the hole and throw them for a loss," Bailey said. "When Blake went down, Coach told me that I was a senior and it was time to show some senior leadership."
Bailey also was learning the fullback position after previously playing tight end. His ability to grasp the new role is a credit to his football IQ, Wiggins said.
"Bryce has a very good understanding of the game that enables him to make plays that he shouldn't make, as well as the ability to make up for being put in a bad situation," Wiggins said.
"We only have about four or five hundred kids in our school. Most [of our players] play on both sides of the ball and never come out of the game. A lot of our game plan revolves around Bryce and his ability to make plays for us."
The Gordon Lee coach said Bailey's tackling ability is largely something that he's developed on his own.
"We spend about 15 or 20 minutes of practice working on tackling," Wiggins said, "but we spend about half of our practice on some form of defense and basically tackle the entire time."
Wiggins said he knows most are giving his team a "snowball's chance" to defeat Emanuel County tonight, but he's not concerned with the perception. The Trojans are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and they're excited about the possibility of making a run.
"We have a great opportunity in front of us," Bailey said. "The past three years have been rough, but we've had a great week of practice and look forward to the opportunity. There are only 16 teams left fighting; we're one of them, and we're scratching and clawing to stay alive.
"Considering our past few years, we're motivated, and we hope all the hard work will pay off."