The Statesboro Blue Devils and Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets will have the opportunity once again to face off against each other on the football field in the annual Erk Russell Classic Saturday at Paulson Stadium at 9 p.m.
Last year it was all Blue Devils as Statesboro defeated SEB 56-14. This year the Jackets come in with a little momentum after a 21-0 season opening win against Liberty County, while the Blue Devils struggled in a 21-0 defeat at Glynn Academy.
First year Statesboro head coach Matt Dobson was disappointed in the final score and the five turnovers the Blue Devil offense had in the game, but feels there were plenty of areas he came away with pleased by.
“I was happy with the team effort and enthusiasm and the emotion which they played with,” Dobson said. “There are obviously some execution things we have to clean up and we identified those things on film and feel like the guys know what they did and what they need to do to correct it. With the exception of their one scoring drive I thought we looked great on defense. I think we played a good team who were able to show us what we need to correct going forward. In our region you better be able to get those things worked out early and I think we have.”
For the Yellow Jackets there were a lot more positives to be taken away from their 21-0 victory and head coach Jared Zito feels the team has continued to show improvement on both sides of the ball.
“I feel like on defense we were as fundamentally sound as we have been in any game since I have been here,” Zito said. “Coach Jason Anthony and his coaches really had the guys ready in all aspects and the players have bought in. They had several three-and-outs and were able to pitch a shutout. On offense we were a little hit or miss. When we hit, we looked great and when we missed things look a little sloppy. We just really have to make sure we hold onto the ball and we are still ironing out some things with the new offensive scheme.”
Saturday night the Yellow Jackets are ready to make some amends for the way they played last season. Zito knows Statesboro has some dynamic players, but feels his defense is more prepared for what they will see.
“I think they may have an edge as far as team speed, and even size,” Zito said. “Offensively I feel like it starts with Kam Mikell. I know he’s moved away from quarterback, but he is capable of scoring any time he touches the ball and we have to account for him at all times. I think Bruce Yawn is a good quarterback, and they do a good job with their RPO’s. If we give them time to throw we can be in trouble. They have kind of gone with a 3-4 look on defense and they have some linebackers who can really fly to the ball. We can’t be sloppy and win this game. Everyone has to be prepared and execute at a high level.”
For the Blue Devils Dobson doesn’t feel like the loss Friday at Glynn Academy has carried into this week and doesn’t expect his team to be anticipating the same kind of score they had last year.
“Southeast Bulloch is much improved from what they looked like last year in my opinion,” Dobson said. “I was really impressed by how they played against Liberty particularly on the defensive side. They played a really clean game and were well coached and fundamentally sound. On offense they have some playmakers and their quarterback doesn’t look like a guy who is starting his first season. We are going to have to clean up the things that hurt us last week and do a lot better job of taking advantage of scoring opportunities.”
For Dobson Saturday will be his first time returning to the field at Paulson Stadium since his playing days at Georgia Southern almost 10 years ago.
“Obviously I have a lot of great memories from my playing days there,” Dobson said. “The emotions will probably be a little different from when I was playing there but I am still probably going to be nervous before the game like I always am. I am excited to be back and also excited for our players to be able to play in that kind of venue and the atmosphere of playing another team from the same county.”
Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch are the second game of the night Saturday as Effingham and Burke County get things started with a 6 p.m. kickoff.