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Collins changing the culture in Brooklet
051310 FOOTBALL 03
Southeast Bulloch head football coach Pat Collins kicks off spring football practice in this Thursday, May 13, 2010 file photo.

    BROOKLET — As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. The community of Brooklet has certainly taken that advice to heart, and joins up with the Southeast Bulloch football team this season in an attempt to turn around a program that has fallen upon the hardest of times.
    A perennial playoff contender through the early years of the last decade, the Yellow Jackets have slipped into a downward spiral. Since posting a 6-4 record in 2005, SEB has failed to win more than two games in a season, and looked to have hit rock bottom after going winless — and running up its losing streak to 19 games — last season.
    As low as the heads were hanging after the 2009 campaign, a new wave of support — and with it, optimism — has spread throughout the ranks of the Yellow Jackets and their supporters.
    “I sense that the community is hungry for this program to succeed,” said SEB coach Pat Collins. “There are a lot of people willing and eager to help. There are parents organizing events to promote us and even people without children in the program have offered financial support to satisfy some of our needs.
    “When you take the steps necessary to give a program what it needs to succeed, it drives home the importance. That goes for things other than athletics too, but we’re glad to see everyone getting behind the football program.”
    The impact has already been noticed and appreciated by Yellow Jacket players.
    “It’s great to have some new equipment and pads,” said senior running back Dee Odum. “We know that it’s the fans that are helping us out. It’s real good to know that they’re behind us.”
    Knowing that an entire town is invested in the turnaround process has done more than just improve the morale on the sidelines. The Yellow Jackets are intent on getting better, and now they have another motivating factor in the process than the constant chase for another win.
    “We’ve seen how things have been going and I’ve tried to impart a couple of things on our boys,” said Collins. “First is that people do care about them and want them to do well, but secondly, and just as importantly, the way that they should go about thanking them is in how they conduct themselves on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The community has shown great examples of being selfless and supportive. Hopefully, our boys carry that on to the next generation.”
    Of course, fan support is only a part of the equation and it is the players that must initiate the program’s progress on the field.
    The Jackets seem to have taken that to heart and have been optimistic and ready to get to work since the first day of spring practice.
    “The boys have had a great attitude from day one,” said Collins. “They have embraced the fact that we’re going to go about doing things in a different manner. It has taken our guys a little bit of adjusting to get used to our new expectations of what we expect of them, but they have been willing to learn and have put forth a lot of effort to do everything that we ask of them.”
    The Jackets kickoff the 2010 season August 27 as they travel to Portal. From there, SEB faces another tough run through Region 3-AA which again figures to be very deep in talent.

SEB travels to Bryan County for scrimmage
    Southeast Bulloch has been working hard to overcome its recent struggles, and tonight offers a chance to see exactly how it stacks up against competition as the Yellow Jackets travel to Pembroke for a scrimmage against Bryan County tonight at 7 p.m.
    “We’re looking forward to seeing where we’re at,” said Collins. “We’ve been in practice and coaching them up for a few weeks. Now, we want to put the coaches on the sidelines and see how the boys fare for themselves out there.”
    Despite increased numbers on this season’s SEB squad, there are still plenty of questions that the Jackets hope to answer early on. Only four seniors are gone from the 2009 team, but there is still a search for players who can be called upon to lead a team that has run into trouble on both sides of the ball.
    “We’re ready to see who is going to make plays for us,” said Collins. “These guys have gone through spring and summer practices, but now it’s time to put it on the field. We’ve had some intra-squad scrimmages and seen the mistakes that we’ve made. We want to see who can go out there in a game situation and fix those mistakes.”
    In tonight’s scrimmage, both varsity squads will compete for four nine-minute quarters of game-situation football. Only the special teams plays will differ from regular season play, as there will be limited action on kicking plays.
    This style of scrimmage differs from many other teams in the area, who opted for controlled scrimmages in which each team is allotted a set amount of time with the ball, and turnovers or a failure to gain a first down does not result in a loss of possession.
    By keeping things as close to a real game as possible, Collins feels that his team can better prepare itself.
    “I think that helps a lot to get a better idea of how we’re doing,” said Collins. “If you’re going to play football, you need to play football. We’re going to make it as much like a regular season game as we can. I think it should help both teams.”
    After the varsity teams have played, each team’s JV squads will take the field with a chance to run their offense for six minutes each.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.