Tattnall County (4-4, 2-3) at SE Bulloch (6-1-1, 4-1)
7:30 p.m., Friday
Fred Shaver Field
BROOKLET — The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets officially punched their ticket into the Class AAA state playoffs last week, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
The Jackets (6-1-1, 4-1 Region 1-AAA) can finish anywhere from first to fourth in the region. SEB can keep itself in line for a shot at a region championship — and the chance to host a first round playoff game — with a win over Tattnall County (4-4, 2-3) tonight at Fred Shaver Field.
Southeast Bulloch has a sizeable advantage in the win-loss column entering tonight’s contest, but that won’t mean much once the game kicks off.
“Tattnall is probably one of the most improved teams we’ve seen from where they were at the beginning of the year to where they are right now,” SEB coach Pat Collins said. “They have had a lot of injuries, but they’re much healthier now. The biggest thing is that they’re playing for the chance to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.”
Last season, it was the Jackets who were fighting for their postseason lives in this contest.
Tattnall unmercifully dismissed SEB with a 45-25 drubbing. This time around, the Jackets are looking to turn the tables.
The Battle Creek Warriors have held their own even in losses, but aren’t the offensive power that they’ve been in previous seasons. Lacking depth and speed, Tattnall has switched from a wide open spread attack to a run-heavy wishbone look.
“Tattnall definitely looks different than what we saw from them last year,” Collins said. “Fortunately for us, we’re very familiar with the schemes that they’re now using.”
While neither team features a flashy offense, both know how to grind out yards.
Tattnall County quarterback Nate Smith has been learning on the job as a sophomore starter, but has been improving steadily. Behind Smith, Desmond Mitchell powers the running back corps.
For the Yellow Jackets, the story continues to be senior running back Tyler Epps. With his 244 yards last week, Epps is now up to 1,431 rushing yards for the season and ranks seventh among all Georgia rushers. Antonio McMillan continues to play with an ankle injury, but showed improvement last week and will keep the Warriors on their heels.
The two squads combine to rush the ball on over 80 percent of their plays, meaning that the offensive and defensive lines will play a huge role in tonight’s outcome.
“I don’t think it’s much of a secret what both teams want to do,” Collins said. “It’s just a matter of who can execute and who can make plays. Tattnall has some big, tough guys up front, but I feel that our offensive and defensive lines are a big strength that has led us in many games.”
With a win, the Region 1-AAA title remains in play for SEB. The Jackets would have to defeat region leader Appling County next week, then win a coin flip for seeding between themselves, Appling and Pierce County.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.