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Blue Devils take it to Yellow Jackets
SHS Football
Statesboro receiver Payton Wedlow plows his way into the end zone for the first touchdown of what became a runaway victory for the Blue Devils over Southeast Bulloch on Saturday evening at the Erk Russell Classic held at Paulson Stadium. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

Southeast Bulloch High school has inched closer to being the same size as Statesboro High, but Saturday night the Blue Devils showed them there is still a pretty big gap on the football field. The Blue Devils turned a 7-7 tie at the end of the first quarter into a 30-7 halftime deficit for the Jackets on their way to a 56-14 victory in the annual Erk Russell Classic.  

The two teams had not played since the Blue Devils shut the Jackets out 19-0 in 2005 on their way to the state championship. That year the Jackets score was the second closest in the regular season for Statesboro. This time around it looked like the two teams were in for at least a pretty good game through the first quarter before Statesboro reeled off 49 straight points. Southeast Bulloch added a last second score but afterwards coach Jared Zito was pretty straightforward with his assessment of the game. 

“This was an old-fashioned butt kicking,” said Zito. “I appreciate that our kids played hard, but we are still doing some things we thought we worked out earlier this week in practice. I still feel games like this are going to make us better as we go on through our season.” 

The Blue Devils had success through the air as well as on the ground as they ended up with over 440 yards of total offense. Kaiser was also happy with the way his defense played after struggling last week against Glynn Academy. 

“Our guys were pretty angry after the way we lost to Glynn Academy last week,” said Kaiser. “I was really pleased with the effort on both sides of the ball. It was good to have Kam back and we were also happy we could get Bruce Yawn in the game and he played good as well. Our line blocked well and we were able to make some big plays especially there in the second quarter to pull away. I also liked the way our defense played after giving up that initial touchdown.” 

One of the areas of concern for Zito going into the game was his perimeter defense, especially with the kind of team speed the Blue Devils possess. After giving up over 350 yards on the ground Zito knows that is an area that has to be fixed soon. 

“We lost leverage a couple times and missed some tackles,” said Zito. “They have a good offensive line and just so much speed at skill position. We knew if we lost leverage and missed tackles especially against Lovett and Mikell we were in for a long night. Those are things we will go back to work on this week.” 

Statesboro scored on their opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kam Mikell to Payton Wedlow who did a great job of plowing over SEB defenders at the goal line. Southeast quickly answered as quarterback Gage DiGiovanni hit Cory Wells on a 38-yard pass, followed by a 22-yard run by Kyon Taylor. Collin Jackson then went in from 4-yards out to tie the game at 7-7. That score held up till the second quarter where it was all Blue Devils. 

Mikell started the second quarter scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run to put Statesboro up 14-7. Jordan Lovett then took off on a 72-yard run down the sidelines to make it 21-7. Mikell added a 42-yard scoring run to give Statesboro a 28-7 lead. Lovett then scored on a 6-yard run with one second left in the half to make it 35-7 at halftime. 

Statesboro gave Mikell and Lovett the second half off but showed they have pretty good depth as the backups played well. Kyan McCollum went in from 3-yards out to extend the lead to 42-7. Bruce Yawn then hit James Flagg for a 12-yard score for a 49-7 lead. In the fourth, third-string quarterback Jay’Lon Strickland added a 32-yard touchdown run. Southeast scored with 10 seconds remaining in the game on a pass from DiGiovanni to Gavin Seabaugh for the final points of the night. 

After the game both coaches thanked the members of the committee for inviting them to play in this year’s Erk Russell Classic and were impressed with the atmosphere. 

"The atmosphere out here is so special and while this is our first, I hope this isn’t our last time playing in the Erk Russell Classic,” said Zito. “I’m so grateful for the way our fans and student body turned out. This was a special experience for everyone involved.” 

“We have gotten a few chances to play in this and it is always a thrill,” said Kaiser. “Getting to play a high school football game in a special venue like Paulson Stadium is so special and the atmosphere was great as usual.”