BROOKLET — Over a month into the season, things seemed to be getting a bit dicey for Southeast Bulloch. A state playoff team last season, the Yellow Jackets stumbled their way to an 0-4 start thanks to a very tough slate of games to begin the year.
With the pressure for a win growing and the sub-region schedule beginning, it was one of SEB’s youngest players who helped get the Jackets over the hump.
Freshman fullback Chase Walker erupted for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries as the Jackets stormed to a 21-12 victory over Beach last week.
“I was just trying to do my job,” Walker said. “I thought that I ran it pretty well. A lot of that has to do with our offensive line and the great game they had. It was easy to get yards with big holes to run through.”
If Walker’s performance last Friday looked familiar to SEB fans, there’s a good reason.
Last season, senior running back Tyler Epps, the Statesboro Herald’s 2013 Offensive Player of the Year, led the Jackets in scoring and nearly reached 2,000 rushing yards. Like the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Walker, Epps was also far from imposing at first glance.
At least that’s how things look until either of them get the ball in their hands.
Walker’s determined running style and indifference to contact — and even the familiar No. 34 on his jersey — are spitting images of the guy whose shoes he’s trying to fill.
“Tyler was like an idol to me as a middle school player last year,” Walker said. “I’m definitely striving to play like him. He was a great leader and a great player. I think it’s the attitude all of us want to have.”
Attitude is a big reason why Walker and the Jackets should still be considered a postseason contender despite the slow start. SEB entered fall camp with all the momentum of its 2013 playoff appearance, but also knew that a slew of new starters might need a few games to find their groove.
Things haven’t always been pretty as the Jackets have gained experience —especially when going up against some powers from the other side of Region 1-AAA — but none of the Jackets have wavered.
With the win over Beach, SEB now has itself atop its sub-region and still controls its own destiny as to where it will be seeded in the region play-in games on the final week of the regular season.
“Honestly, I think last week was one of our best weeks of practice,” Walker said. “Nobody was down. Everyone knew how important our sub-region games are and I think we were all prepared for Beach.
“Now we need to keep it up. One win is no reason to let up on the intensity.”
Walker might be one of the youngest Jackets, but that isn’t stopping him from having more of an impact with each passing week.
After the Beach game, he now leads the team in rushing with 479 yards and five touchdowns halfway through the season.
From here on out, the games will only get bigger, and Walker seems to be just fine with that.
“Before the season, I thought that I’d probably be playing on the JV team,” Walker said. “I’m glad to be able to help (the varsity). That’s how it works. When any of us get called on, we step up and help the team.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.