Even with a region championship slipping through their grasp, Southeast Bulloch still has one attainable goal from the beginning of the season.
The Vietnam War was still raging in the pacific when Southeast Bulloch won their last playoff game — a 21-7 win over Duluth for the state championship in 1973. It was Fred Shaver’s final season as head coach of SEB, and the Yellow Jackets have yet to see success like the early seventies since his departure.
Even in the early nineties under Tom Brackett, SEB could post double-digit win regular seasons but never replicate the success come playoff time. Perhaps most notably in 1993, when SEB was embarrassed 42-8 in the first round of the playoffs after finishing their regular season 11-0.
But even if this SEB team couldn’t win a region championship they were heavily favored to win back in August, they can erase the disappointment by doing something that hasn’t been done in 40 years.
“We’ve mentioned it to the players,” said head coach Pat Collins. “At least now we have a chance to correct it.”
It’s not an easy task ahead of SEB though — niyot only traveling almost 180 miles west but facing a Worth County team that’s coming off a well fought 28-20 loss to 10-0 Crisp County. But when you zoom in on the numbers, these two sides are very similar.
“This is a team that’s passed the ball 50 times this year,” Collins said. “The familiarity helps us, but it also helps them.”
A critic of SEB would point toward a weak region schedule as something that would hold them back in a playoff game. But with a strong non-region schedule, SEB’s opponent winning percentage is actually .511 — with teams like Benedictine, Jenkins and Savannah bringing that percentage up.
Worth County’s opponent winning percentage is .490, with their best opponents being Crisp, Thomas County Central and Turner County — whom the Rams actually beat 39-36. There lies one thing Worth County has over SEB, a win over an above .500 team.
“They beat a class A team by a field goal,” Collins said. “Everything between us is similar. We have a chance in this game. Especially since they’re coming off an emotional loss in their region championship.”
But SEB knows how to win despite this, holding a strong point differential of +102, including +175 in their wins. Compare that to Worth’s, which sits at +24 and a surprising even zero in their wins.
But for Worth, their losses have come close. The only real blowout came at the hands of Thomas Co. Central 48-7, but the other three were by a combined 15 points. Compare that to SEB, who aside from their 34-41 loss to Jenkins have lost all their games by at least 17 points.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say this group has underachieved,” Collins said. “When you’re replacing nine on defense and half the offense is a bit too much.”
But even more similar are the style of play. Folks at tonight’s game will be treated to some old-fashioned three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style of play, as both teams love to run the ball and squeeze the clock for all it’s worth.
Both of these teams run the ball over 84 percent of the time and average right around 6.3 yards a carry when they do. The only difference is the rushing production is coming from two players at Worth County instead of one for SEB.
Fullback Chase Walker has been the workhorse SEB’s been able to hitch their season to. Walker’s averaged 6.9 yards a carry over 219 rushes this season and has scored 21 touchdowns. Jontrell Wells, Jaleel Hodge and Brandon Breda have mixed in some, but Walker is the team’s bread and butter.
Worth County on the other hand gets their production from running backs Horace Everson and Chris McDaniel — who together have rushed for 1956 of Worth’s 2685 yards at 6.7 yards a pop. With two threats out of the backfield, SEB will have to stay on their P’s and Q’s to prevent the big play which has often burnt them this season.
Defense has been an achilles heel for SEB in their losses. They’ve given up an average of 35.5 points per loss and has put extra pressure on an offense not designed to get into shootouts. Not that SEB isn’t capable of scoring points in bunches, but it’s not the game Collins wants to play.
“If this game goes like I think it is, each team will have about three possessions a half,” Collins said. “I believe we matchup better with a team like this rather than a team with a dual-threat quarterback and four wides.”
SEB has a daunting goal over them: winning their first playoff game since the Nixon administration. But a manageable opponent unlike last season’s matchup with eventual state champion Westminster may be the key to advancing SEB to the second round.
Tonights game st