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For SEB, it's just win and they're in

Appling Co. (6-3, 5-2) at SE Bulloch (303)
7:30 p.m., Friday

Game Plan
    PLAY FROM AHEAD: Appling County has been able to put up plenty of points this season, but SEB has become an incredible ball control team that routinely runs twice as many offensive plays as its opponents. If the Jackets can move the chains and avoid falling behind, Appling County might not get many opportunities to show off its offense.

    CALM AMONGST THE CHAOS: Last season, the Jackets returned to the state playoffs for the first time in a decade. All talent aside, the pressure of the postseason is a different animal than the week to week grind of the regular season. Tonight’s play-in game might as well be labeled a postseason game, and SEB now has plenty of players who have played under that sort of pressure.

    BABY STEPS: One of the main reasons that the Jackets have hung onto the ball for so long is an offense that is as meticulous as it is effective. The Jackets have racked up five wins without having to rely on the big play. There are plenty of SEB players who can run for days if given the opportunity, but sticking to what has worked is imperative if the Jackets want to move on.

    BROOKLET — According to Southeast   Bulloch head coach Pat Collins, his team is in ‘Week 0’ of the state playoffs.
    Tonight’s game will go down in the books as a regular season matchup, but Southeast Bulloch will host Appling County tonight at Fred Shaver Field with a berth in the Class AAA state playoffs on the line.
    The Yellow Jackets (5-4, 5-0 Region 1-AAA) enter tonight’s matchup riding the momentum of a five-game winning streak.  The Pirates (6-3, 4-2) ran a gauntlet through some of the region’s toughest teams down the stretch and had to win their last two games just to make the region play-in round.
    “Appling County might have the four seed,” Collins said. “But make no mistake. That’s a very good football team.”
    The Jackets haven’t had an off week since the start of their winning streak, but will be the better rested team tonight.
    Facing lowly Islands last week — and with its sub-region championship already wrapped up — Southeast Bulloch was able to pull some starters as early as the first quarter and let its reserves do most of the heavy lifting.
    “You look at a guy like Chase Walker,” Collins said. “He had five carries last week after getting 80 in the two weeks before that. I think we got a lot of guys some good rest. At the same time, we’ve been intense and spirited in practice this week, so I think we’re where we want to be.”
    Appling County has beaten SEB in each of the last two seasons, but isn’t quite as explosive as it has been in the past. Also factoring into tonight’s matchup will be the health of Pirate quarterback Vernon Dasher, who has sat out recently with injuries and is a game time decision.
    Regardless of who lines up under center for Appling, SEB is viewing its opponent much like another region rival.
    The Pirates closely mirror Pierce County on both sides of the ball, giving the Jackets a good idea of what to expect.
    Of course, the execution will have to be better for the Jackets than in their game with Pierce as their season opener against the Bears resulted in a 44-26 loss.
    “That game was a long time ago,” Collins said. “I think that we can take some cues from that game to prepare for Appling, but we have a much different team than what we were that first week. I think we might be the most improved team in our region from opening day to right now.”
With a win and a loss by Cook in its play-in game, Southeast Bulloch would claim a region championship. An SEB victory and a Cook win would have the Jackets enter the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed.
    All four playoff teams advancing from this week’s play-in games will take on a representative from Region 2-AAA next week in the opening round of the state playoffs.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.