BROOKLET — The Bulloch County area is no stranger to witnessing impressive rushing performances each fall.
Statesboro’s power wishbone attack routinely chews up yardage while runners in Bulloch Academy’s option system are no stranger to breaking loose on dozens of huge plays throughout the season.
But this year, fans need to make the journey down to Brooklet to find one of the most impressive runners in all of Georgia.
Tyler Epps has been a productive member of the Southeast Bulloch running game throughout his career with the Yellow Jackets. Early seasons were rough as the Jackets were mired in the middle of turning around a struggling program, but Epps was a breakout star in a 2012 campaign that saw him crack the 1,000-yard barrier. That performance earned Epps recognition on the All-Region 1-AAA team — an honor that is almost certainly going to be repeated at the end of this season.
Through eight games, Epps has run wild to the tune of 1,431 yards while finding the end zone 20 times. The senior’s rushing totals heading into last week’s games were good enough to place him eighth in the state — all classifications included –—in rushing yardage. His 244 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 42-21 win over Beach should put Epps on the brink of the top-5 when new leaders are announced later this week.
The stats are impressive, but a game that won’t happen for another three weeks is what Epps and his teammates are most proud of.
Last week’s win guaranteed SEB of at least a fourth place finish in the region, clinching a state playoff berth for the Jackets for the first time since 2003. It took Epps an entire high school career, but he’ll finally get a crack at the postseason.
“That was the most exciting part about last week,” Epps said. “We’ve come together as a team so much over the last few years. I know it’s been a long time since the school has made it. It’s a great feeling to know that we’ll get a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Sadly, Epps has also had to run with a heavy heart — and with one less fan in the stands — as Epps’ grandfather passed away earlier this season.
Even in the face of sadness and mourning, Epps has continued his incredible season.
“Losing my grandfather was definitely tough,” Epps said. “At the same time, I know that I’ve got the rest of my family. They’re in the stands and have high expectations of me. I just want to do my best for them.”
If the best of Epps hasn’t been seen yet, none of SEB’s opponents want to be around when it finally shows. In eight games, Epps has failed to break 100 yards just once and has also scored in every game except for the season opener.
With a win over Tattnall County this week, the Yellow Jackets can clinch at least a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs and will still be in contention to host a home game in the first round of the postseason.
About the only thing unremarkable about Epps is his reaction to his own accomplishments.
He’s aware — though admittedly surprised — of his standing in the state rushing rankings and he knows that he’s spent plenty of time high-fiving teammates in the end zone this season. That said, most question about how he’s accomplished everything this season lead straight to praise of the offensive line in front of him or the give-and-take relationship between he and the other SEB running backs in throwing leading blocks for one another.
“I’m happy to be doing so well, but it’s a team effort,” Epps said. “The main thing is that we’re continuing to grow. We’ve been trying to get this program better and show the younger guys how to keep winning. That’s what I think we’re most proud of.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.
Epps provides Jackets' sting