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Epps carries SEB to win over Tattnall

Epps carries SEB to win over Tattnall

Epps carries SEB to win over Tattnall


BROOKLET — With the puddles collecting all over the field, the sheets of rain pouring down for three quarters and players on both sides losing their footing, one thing was immediately apparent.

First team to score wins.

That team was Southeast Bulloch. Tyler Epps punched it in from a yard out in the third quarter and ran it in for the two-point conversion as the Yellow Jackets held off visiting Tattnall County 8-0 on Friday at Fred Shaver Field.

SEB (7-1-1, 5-1) head coach Pat Collins played “Davis Ball,” as inspired by his mentor, legendary GHSA coach Robert Davis.

“He’s a Hall of Fame coach, the second winningest coach in the state of Georgia,” Collins said of Davis. “He always built his teams to make deep runs in the playoffs, and his philosophy to win 350 games over all those years was that you build your team for things you can’t control — rain and cold weather, things like that. I think it paid dividends tonight. We played the percentages and used field position.”

Of Tattnall’s 178 yards, 72 came on the final drive, as the Battle Creek Warriors (4-5, 2-4 Region 1-AAA) tried to tie the game with a late rally.

Tattnall quarterback Nate Smith led a comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter after a Cole Carter punt pinned the Warriors on the SEB 8. Smith completed five passes for 56 yards and ran for 31 more on the drive, but the bid was ruined by SEB’s Isaiah Francois, who picked off a pass at the 15 and returned it 38 yards to ice the win for the Yellow Jackets.

“We’ve been working on it all week. They’ve been running slant flairs and I picked up on it and broke on it,” Francois said. “I’ve been waiting for that all year long. It was my first interception of the year. I was the last person of the linebackers and secondary to get a pick.”

The Jackets ended their first drive of the third quarter when a fumbled snap was recovered by Tattnall’s Aiden Valdez.

The Warriors returned the favor with a fumble that Keagan Carter jumped on at the SEB 30. The teams combined for five turnovers.

The ensuing drive was kept alive on third-and-13 with a 10-yard run by Carter and a 13-yard run by Epps on fourth down.

Epps scored from a yard out and, after a TCHS penalty on the conversion try, Epps ran it in for two.

“Our guys were just able to make a few more plays than Tattnall,” Collins said. “Hats off to Tattnall. They played an exceptional football game tonight. It was a tough, hard-nosed game. A classic football game.”

Early in the third, Smith found Desmond Mitchell (5 catches, 72 yards) on a screen pass that got first-down yardage on fourth-and-8, but a block in the back penalty stopped the drive in its tracks. Smith completed his longest pass of the game on the drive, a 31-yard bomb to Darius Mincey who caught it in the air and landed with a splash in a puddle.

The longest drive of the first half came inches away from ending in the end zone.

Epps carried the ball 11 times for 52 yards on SEB’s opening drive and the Jackets fought their way down to fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but the Warriors held strong, stopping Epps in his tracks at the 1.

Other than that drive, the teams were dead even through two quarters.

Both teams carried the ball 20 times in the first 24 minutes -- TCHS for 44 yards and SEB for 49 -- and neither committed a turnover.

Epps finished the game to lead all rushers with 118 yards.

The Yellow Jackets return to action on Friday when they travel to Baxley to face Appling County, the only unbeaten team in Region 1-AAA. If SEB wins, it could force a three-way tie for the region title between the Jackets, Appling and Pierce County. Pierce handed SEB its only loss on Oct. 11.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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