BROOKLET – Knocking off a top-10 ranked team is quite the way to make your head coaching debut.
First-year head coach Barrett Davis did just that as the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets used a dominant running game and an aggressive defense en route to a 28-21 season-opening win over Screven County.
The Yellow Jackets’ defense held a Gamecock offense than ran for more than 350 yards last week to 163 on Friday, including only 80 yards in the first half.
“They didn’t have an answer for our edge pressure,” Davis said of his team’s game plan as the Yellow Jackets (1-0)were able to limit the explosive Gamecock offense. Screven County (1-1) only had four plays of 10 or more yards on the night and struggled, especially early, to establish anything on offense.
Southeast Bulloch, meanwhile, got off to a fast start on defense and offense.
After forcing a three-and-out on Screven’s first possession, SEB went 73 yards on their opening drive, keyed by a 26-yard pass from quarterback Blaize Minick to Tyler Bailey on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Minick capped off the drive with an 8-yard run to put SEB up 7-0.
Screven County was able to tie it up early in the second when Minick was stripped by DeCalvin Williams, who scooped up the fumble and rumbled 20-yards to knot the game at seven.
However, it didn’t take long for SEB to answer as two plays later, Jamari Daniel broke off a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Yellow Jackets a 14-7 lead.
Daniel looked to make Yellow Jacket fans forget about Chase Walker, who ran for more than 6,000 yards and 91 touchdowns during his tenure at SEB. For his part, Daniel ended up with 152 yards on 17 carries, including three runs of 20 or more yards.
The Gamecocks responded with a six-minute drive that covered 61 yards, ending with an eight-yard score by Al Pettigrew.
The third quarter reasserted themselves in the third quarter. After partially blocking a punt on Screven County’s first possession of the second half, the Yellow Jackets went 34 yards in seven plays. Justin Bradley scored from three yards out on his only carry of the night to put the Yellow Jackets up 21-14.
The Yellow Jacket defense forced a fumble on the Gamecocks’ next play and set their offense up on the Screven County 27.
Shortly thereafter, facing a fourth and three, Jontrell Wells took the handoff and powered his way up the middle for a six-yard touchdown, extending the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 28-14.
Wells’ score was one of several fourth-down conversion attempts by the Yellow Jackets, who under Davis, seemed to have a more aggressive play-calling approach than in years past.
“We look for opportunities to go for it where we think we’ll be successful,” Davis said of the decisions to go for it rather than punting.
Screven County cut the lead to seven on a Shawn Williams five-yard touchdown run with 9:55 remaining, but the Yellow Jackets defense was able to shut down the Gamecock offense for the remainder of the night and hold on for the 28-21 win.
Williams was the only Screven County offensive player to have any success against SEB, accounting for 110 of the Gamecocks’ 164 total yards.
In addition to Daniel, Wells added 85 yards for the Yellow Jackets on the ground. Meanwhile, Minick and Bailey connected four times for 48 yards through the air as SEB amassed 325 yards on the night.
While Davis was quick to give credit to the team for the win, he was obviously excited to get his first win as a head coach.
“I’ve spent 10 years preparing to become a head coach,” he said. “Burke County taught me a lot to get me ready for this moment, but I’m so proud of our kids.”
While he was pleased with the win, there were still some areas where he said the team has to improve. Among those areas were penalties. The Yellow Jackets were flagged nine times for 95 yards on the night and also had two turnovers.
“We’ve got to clean some things up,” he said. “We’ve also got to get in better shape. We had a few guys come out of the game with cramps so we’ve got to work on our conditioning.”
Despite that, the Yellow Jackets getting their first win of the season and Davis getting his first as a head coach was a great feeling, he said.
“We’re going to enjoy this win,” he said.