BROOKLET — Southeast Bulloch and Screven County will both be searching for a region win tonight as the two old rivals square off under the lights at Fred Shaver Field.
The Gamecocks (0-3, 0-1 Region 3-AA) hold a slim 14-12 lead over the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 0-1) in the all-time series thanks to wins in each of the last four seasons, but this year’s meeting is more about staying in playoff contention than sticking it to a neighbor.
"This is certainly a big game for both teams," said SEB coach Pat Collins. "This region is far too tough to start losing too many games early on if you want to be there at the end."
In order to regain its winning ways, the Yellow Jackets will have to eliminate some mistakes that came back to haunt them in last week’s 38-14 loss at Bleckley County.
"We got away with some mistakes in the first two weeks," said Collins. "I think that anytime you can see how those mistakes can really hurt like we did last week, it causes you to pay some more attention to it. Sometimes those bad experiences are the best teachers."
SEB will try to rebound tonight against a Gamecock squad that has stumbled to its first 0-3 start since the 2004 season. Some of the scores have looked more lopsided than the actual competition was and Screven has been in every game into the second half, so Collins and his team aren’t taking anything for granted.
"Screven is a good football team that’s had to go against some very good competition," said Collins. "Their record is very misleading. We know that we’re going to have to play very well in order to get a win."
The SEB offense will need to be on its game if it wants to avoid the constant pressure of Screven’s defense. This season, the Gamecocks have switched to a more aggressive scheme, emphasizing blitzing and attacking the line of scrimmage.
The emergence of more offensive weapons on this year’s Jacket squad should help to keep the Gamecocks on their heels and prevent them from keying on any single threat in the backfield.
On the other side of the ball, SEB knows exactly what it can expect.
Aikeem Mingle directs an offense that is looking to come together behind a new offensive line, and Rodderick Grace is a powerful threat with the ball in his hands.
Of course, Collins is as familiar with Screven’s personnel as anyone on the field having coached the Gamecocks from 2006-2009.
"It’s a proven system over (at Screven)," said Collins. "It’s the same thing that they’ve been running for decades. I think it might help us a little bit in that we know the strength and speed of a lot of their players, but we still have to line up and make plays. One thing I know for sure is that those boys are going to play hard for four quarters and we need to do the same."
Whoever comes out on top tonight will be in much better shape in Region 3-AA. Even with Vidalia and Toombs County departing the region this season, perennial powers Dublin, Jefferson County and Swainsboro are still undefeated and are still lurking on the schedules of both teams.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.