For at least a half it looked as though the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets may have ended their 44 year old drought of advancing past the first round of the state playoffs, but a strong second half by the visiting Pike County Pirates ended their hopes as Southeast Bulloch fell 43-28.
The Yellow Jackets actually came back to make it a seven point game late in the fourth quarter but a wild play on the ensuing kickoff ended up being the final nail in the coffin. The Yellow Jackets attempted to pooch kick the ball as the Pirates were set up for a possible onside kick, but instead the ball was fielded by C’bo Flemister who got to the 43-yard line where he was hit and coughed up the ball which was quickly scooped up by teammate Omari Hamm who proceeded to go 57-yards for the touchdown.
“I think it was a case of two very fine physical football teams meeting,” said Southeast Bulloch head coach Steve Pennington, “All the credit to Pike County and the way they played. We controlled the ground game in the first half, but they got a little momentum late in the half and carried it into the third quarter while we stalled a bit.”
It was a game billed as a showcase for two running backs and the two stars didn’t disappoint. Southeast Bulloch senior Chase Walker rushed for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Pike county senior C’bo Flemister rushed for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the process Walker went for over 6,000 career yards and 90 touchdowns, while Flemister keeps on going with over 2,000 yards for the season, and 29 touchdowns.
“I thought offensively we did pretty good,” said Pennington, “Chase ran hard and our offensively line blocked well. The trouble was we had trouble with their power game and that was something that concerned me going into this game.”
The Yellow Jackets actually jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a 15-yard Jontrell Wells touchdown run and a 13-yard score by Walker. Pike countered in the second quarter with a pair of Flemister touchdown runs, but the Yellow Jackets answered just before the half with a 4-yard Walker touchdown to grab the lead.
The Pirates received the ball first in the second half and on their fourth play from scrimmage Flemister bounced off a couple tackles and then showed his speed going 36 yards for the score to tie the game at 21-21. The Jackets proceeded to go three and out and Pike then went 63 yards on nine plays with Flemister capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown.
Just before the end of the third quarter after the Yellow Jackets failed to convert on a fourth and short, someone other than Flemister scored, as Gerald Hines went 65-yards on the Pirates first play from scrimmage to give them a 35-21 lead.
“We really struggled with their power game particularly there in the third quarter,” said Pennington, “I heard Flemister committed to Georgia Southern earlier this year, well they better scoop him up before somebody like Auburn sees this guy play, he is the total package.”
The Yellow Jackets were able to cut the lead to 7 late in the game with a 1-yard Chase Walker touchdown, but on the ensuing kickoff Flemister fumbles, Hamm recovered and scored for the final tally of 43-28.
“We thought we had things going our way late,” said Pennington, “We scored then they fumbled on the kickoff and things literally didn’t bounce our way as they picked it up and scored.”
Pennington was named interim head coach in May after then head coach Pat Collins accepted a position as athletic director at Bulloch Academy. After the game Pennington was a bit elusive when asked if he would pursue the Southeast Bulloch head coaching position on a permanent basis.
“My responsibility was to prepare our players each and every day,” said Pennington, “I tried to be disciplined with that and not dwell on what tomorrow may bring. I pray about it often, and I will continue to seek God’s will and guidance in my direction for the future. It has been a lot of fun this year.”
The Yellow Jackets end the season with a record of 6-5. This is the first ever state playoff victory for Pike County.