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Excitement in the air in Brooklet for playoff return
Southeast Bulloch running back Antonio McMillan, right, cuts up field against the Beach defense during a first quarter run in this Friday, Oct. 25, file photo. The Yellow Jackets face Jefferson County on Friday in their first playoff game since the 2003 season. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Southeast Bulloch Postseason History
Year    Coach (Record)    Games            Score
1969    Fred Shaver (9-2)     L — Vidalia            22-19
1971    Fred Shaver (12-1)    W — Montgomery County    33-6
                                          W — Macon County        27-26
        (State Championship)     L — Bowden        20-19
1972    Fred Shaver (12-0)    W — Unadilla        66-8
        (State Championship)    W — Adairsville        12-9 
1973    Fred Shaver (12-0)    W — Patterson        28-0
        (State Championship)    W — Duluth            21-7 
1974    Larry Freeman (10-1) L — Carrollton        28-8 
1980    Tony Branch (7-4)     L — Blackshear        26-20
1991    Tom Bracket (7-4)     L — Metter            27-12
1992    Tom Bracket (10-1)     L — East Laurens        20-9 
1993    Tom Bracket (11-1)    W — Tattnall County        21-20
                                           L — Turner County        42-8 
1994    Tom Bracket (8-4)    W — Metter            16-13
                                         L — Macon County        7-3   
2002    Ron Flott (8-3)        L — Irwin County        18-0 
2003    Ron Flott (7-4)        L — Cook County        34-7

    BROOKLET — There was a time not too long ago that students at Southeast Bulloch High school and residents of Brooklet spent their Fridays in the fall trying to find something to fill the evening. For nearly a decade, undersized and outmanned Yellow Jacket football teams struggled while their fan base followed suit.
    Throw in a new system and some wins and it’s amazing how far in the past those dark days seem.
    SEB finished the regular season with a 7-2-1 mark and will play its first postseason game since 2003 on Friday night at Jefferson County. The success is great for this season’s hard-working team, but is also being enjoyed by a community that is thrilled to see its team rolling along once again.
    “It’s definitely been a great season,” Roger Inman, assistant principle at SEB Middle School and former booster club president, said. “A lot of our boosters are parents of players or have coached or taught them along the way. We know the effort they’ve been putting in. It’s great to see things pay off for them.”
    A new system brought in by head coach Pat Collins four years ago and
countless hours of practice have turned the Jackets into playoff contenders, but a supportive community has also played a large part in the improvement.
    When Collins was asked about his first days back in Brooklet — he also served as head coach from 1995-96 — he recalled having to start from the most basic things.
    “I remember missing some numbers when counting our practice jerseys,” Collins said. “Kids were buying their own and we had all sorts of different jerseys running around.”
    Through fundraising efforts by Collins and the booster club, the Jackets were able to get back on their feet. One donation led to new cleats for players while others led to updated pads and weight room equipment.
    As support poured in, the positive attitudes carried over to the team. Immediately after Collins’ arrival, roster sizes soared and this year’s Jackets have twice as many players as the 2009 squad.
    As the wins have started to pile up, there is no shortage of fans in the stands to celebrate them. Nowadays, most of Brooklet can be found in the bleachers of SEB’s new stadium anytime the Jackets have a home game.
    Financial support and growing attendance numbers certainly show the community’s excitement over the Jackets, but it doesn’t get any better than receiving a seal of approval from the school’s most successful coach.
    “I’m just tickled pink over this season,” Former coach Fred Shaver said.
    Shaver led the Jackets to state titles in 1972 and 1973. He still keeps a close eye on the team during most practices and — as the namesake of the Jackets’ home field — is a literal fixture at all SEB games.
    “It’s great to see this team playing well,” Shaver said. “It’s heartwarming to see everyone in the stands each week cheering them on. It’s a big effort by everyone. I think that the fans really do a great job of supporting the team. Coach Collins and his staff have done a tremendous job and I know how hard the players work every day to get better.”
    As a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs, it’s likely that the Jackets have already played their final home game of the 2013 season. The home field advantage might not be there, but SEB can charge into the postseason for the first time in a decade knowing that it has an entire town in its corner.

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