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Jackets regroup after first loss
092112 SEB FOOTBALL 01
Southeast Bulloch's Antonio McMillan, left, looks to the sky in frustration as the final seconds tick off the clock against Telfair County Friday.


BROOKLET — Piling up the early wins is always nice, but most teams don’t find out what they’re really made of until they have to bounce back from a loss.

Southeast Bulloch began the season with two straight victories before falling to Telfair County (3-1) last Friday as a late comeback came up just a bit short. The Yellow Jackets trailed 28-6 at halftime, but rallied in the second half. SEB shut out Telfair over the final two quarters, but only managed two more touchdowns, bowing out by a final score of 28-21.

The loss puts SEB at a crossroads. The Jackets have struggled to turn their program around for nearly a decade, but haven’t been able to build up a head of steam. Previous years have seen early success turn into another long season, but the Jackets are confident that this time will be different.

The roster is full of juniors and seniors who have taken their lumps and have a burning desire to finally get SEB headed in the right direction. Friday’s loss is a setback, but the Jackets are looking to make it just a bump in the road.


A different attitude

Coaches and players don’t like losing and SEB coach Pat Collins and his team are no exception.

Collins has been in some quiet postgame locker rooms over the last two seasons in Brooklet, but he noticed a different atmosphere after Friday’s game.

"There was a whole new level of emotion that I hadn’t seen from our guys before," said Collins. "There were some tears shed. To me, that says that our team has put it all on the line. We have prepared and played with maximum effort. You don’t see that kind of emotion from a team that doesn’t truly believe it should be winning."

That resolve was clear on the field as well. SEB has faced more halftime deficits than it would care to admit recently, but rarely have the Jackets come on so strong in the second half.

The Jackets scored on both of their possessions in the final two quarters, but couldn’t get the Telfair offense off of the field in time to mount a potential tying drive.

"I think we saw what we’re capable of," said Collins. "We played with fire and it showed. It’s something we need to continue to work at, but something that we know we can do."


Avoiding the big ones

For the most part, SEB and Telfair couldn’t have been more evenly matched. The Trojans recorded just one more first down than SEB and averaged just a fraction more yardage per play.

But Telfair was on the positive side of four big plays that swung the momentum.

"They had a big kickoff return to set up a score," said Collins. "They had two big plays on offense – one passing and one rushing. Finally, they made a big hit on one of our kick returns to force a fumble that set up their final score."

The Jackets were able to stay in the fight, but could never match the gamebreaking fireworks that Telfair was able to produce.

"Those big plays produce momentum," said Colins. "We we able to stop those big plays for much of the night, but it only takes a couple and Telfair capitalized."


Let the region games begin

The sting of the loss was still evident in the locker room Monday afternoon, but SEB will have to shake things off as it prepares for more important things.

The Jackets begin Region 1-AAA play this week as they host Johnson of Savannah. SEB was happy to take its pair of early wins, but only the victories from here on out will determine its postseason fate.

"There’s not a ton of difference between the top talent in the region and everyone that people think might be in the middle," said Collins. "The formula is simple in a region with eight teams. We need to win four or more games if we want to contend for a playoff spot."

After beginning the season playing against a trio of Class A opponents, the Atomsmashers (0-4) will be the Jackets’ first test against Class AAA competition. Johnson has struggled, failing to score a point until last week’s 28-21 loss against Appling County, but still promises to be a tough test.

"It’s going to be a matter of executing for all four quarters," said Collins. "Johnson has a lot of playmakers. Everybody in this region does. And that doesn’t exclude SEB. We have our share of talent. We just have to execute and show it."


Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.