(3) SE Bulloch (7-2-1) at (2) Jefferson County (7-3)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
BROOKLET — It’s playoff time in Georgia and for the first time since 2003, the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets are invited to the party.
Tonight, the Jackets (7-2-1) will take their show on the road for a first round matchup against No. 2 seed Jefferson County (7-3). SEB faces a tough matchup, but after winning as many games this season as in the previous three years combined, the Jackets haven’t seemed to care much for hurdles in their way.
“Our guys have been pretty levelheaded,” SEB coach Pat Collins said. “One thing about this team is that they never get too high or too low.
“I don’t know if I’d say they same about our students and fans. They’re very excited that we’re back in the postseason. But that’s a good thing. We appreciate the support and hope to keep making them happy.”
While most state playoff matchups bring together teams that aren’t familiar with each other, that won’t be the case tonight. Jefferson County and Southeast Bulloch were region foes from 2006-2011 before a jump up to Class AAA separated the schools.
That run of annual matchups didn’t work out so well for the Jackets. Jefferson County has won all six previous meetings with the Jackets never getting closer than 27 points.
Of course, this is a much different SEB squad than the ones that have struggled for most of the last decade.
“The last time we went to Jefferson County, we had a bunch of boys,” Collins said. “On Friday night, we’re going to take a group of men up to Louisville. I anticipate that two good teams are going to play a tough game.”
Tonight’s matchup will feature a contrast in styles that has become quite familiar for the Yellow Jackets.
The Warriors, as they did in their previous meetings with SEB, like to spread the field with multiple shotgun formations. Jefferson doesn’t have quite the same amount of firepower as it has in the past, but still possess the speed to give the Jackets problems.
Keeping the ball away from the Warriors will be key and SEB has the perfect offense to do it with. Linemen Will Collins, Austin Cowart, John de Merlier, Marshall Duke, and Alex Viljoen have combined with tight ends Shaun Allen, Kaelin Jones, and Chase Rooks to form an impressive front.
With the line leading the way, SEB is averaging over 300 rushing yards per game and Tyler Epps (1,787 yards) ranks fifth in Georgia in rushing.
“We’re pretty straightforward with what we want to do,” Pat Collins said. “Our guys up front are going to line up and push people around. They have really grown as a unit over the last few years and they take a lot of pride in what they do.”
For a team with no playoff experience, the Jackets are cool, calm and collected despite being in uncharted territory. SEB has gone about its business throughout the week and doesn’t expect much — other than the do-or-die nature of playoff games — to change.
“My pregame speech isn’t going to change one bit,” Pat Collins said. “I’m going to tell everyone to go out there and get a win. That’s what we expect to do each and every game. Being in the playoffs doesn’t change that.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.