Southeast Bulloch locked up a playoff spot for the third time in four years with a 26-13 win over Beach.
But unlike some of their other games against the Savannah schools, it didn’t come easy.
Up 20-0 midway through the third quarter, SEB had complete control of the game and showed
no signs of relenting it. After all, SEB had converted three of their four drives into touchdowns up to that point at 6.4 yards per play -- compared to Beach’s 3.8 yards per play and three drives for two turnovers.
“Our offensive line played great tonight,” said running back Chase Walker. “The whole team was getting it done.”
However, as if a brand new team had taken the field, Beach struck two 10-plus yard runs from Shanari Ford and Shavari Williams to set the Bulldogs up at the SEB 38 following a kickoff out-of-bounds from the Yellow Jackets.
Two plays later Ford took a sweep to the edge and hit a seam to fly untouched to the end zone.
In the blink of an eye, Beach was seemingly back in the game.
The next drive, SEB found themselves in a 4th-and- 6 after a holding penalty stalled the offense.
In a gutsy move on their own 48, SEB ran a fake punt to upback Slade Burgin. Burgin took the snap and carried just over the first down line to extend the SEB drive.
SEB overcame two penalties with four runs by Walker — the longest being 39 — to punch in their fourth touchdown in just five drives to go up 26-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“Those penalties are inexcusable, we need to do a better job with our hands,” Collins said, referring to the holding penalty on the drive, one of five SEB would occur in the game. “The offsides aren’t either.”
Beach would respond without hesitation. Quarterback Kiwan Williams touched the ball every play in a nine play, 70-yard drive to score on back-to- back drives. A big 25-yard QB sweep from Williams and an odd targeting penalty on a failed third down conversion inside the SEB 20 set up an eight yard run by Williams to cut the lead to 26-13.
Knowing SEB’s drives take up big chunks of time, Beach set up an onside kick with 9:27 left in the fourth quarter. Josh Woods rifled the ball into the chest of Ty Cowart, and like a third baseman getting a ball at the hot corner Cowart bobbled the ball and fell to the ground.
Beach’s kickoff team was all over the play, picking up the mishandled ball to have a chance to make it a one score game.
“We didn’t handle that ball cleanly and that’s definitely a special teams blunder,” Collins said.
With the ball at midfield, Beach moved the ball to the SEB 37 when Antonio Roberts smacked Williams for a big sack — dropping the Bulldogs back to the 46.
A few plays later on 3rd-and- 13, Williams hit TyJuan Jenkins on a hitch and ran the ball for a first down. But a big unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Beach negated the gain, setting up Beach for a 1st-and- 25 on the SEB 39.
“If it wasn’t for that penalty, they probably would have scored,” said safety Tyler Thornton. “That quarterback was fast and he was moving the ball.”
After three incomplete passes, Williams heaved a 4th-and- 25 prayer to the back corner of the endzone. Thornton flew over the top to intercept the pass and end the threat from Beach.
SEB would end the game with a clock-draining 11 play, 78 yard drive on the backs of Walker, Jaleel Hodge and Jontrell Wells. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but SEB is going back to the post season either way.
“It’s always a program goal to get to the playoffs,” Collins said. “Our guys have stuck by even though we didn’t win region and I’m happy for this community and our players.”
SEB’s largest contribution came from Walker, who had another typical night of 233 yards on the ground on 31 carries. Even without the long runs of 56 and 39, Walker averaged 4.8 yards a carry — plenty for Collins’ offense.
“The offense was pretty well what we like it to be,” Collins said. “We still have to clean some things up though.”
Brandon Breda scored on a three-yard run on SEB’s opening drive, while Caleb Carter threw a touchdown pass to Wells on the second drive. Walker scored two touchdowns to add to his season total of 16.
SEB (4-4, 3-2) now has to turn around in just four days to play their season finale against Johnson (0-7, 0-4) on Tuesday in Savannah. It’s a unique situation, but SEB’s not alone in playing funky schedules this season.
More than likely SEB will play Worth County (6-3) from region 1-3A, but they won’t know for
sure until Worth plays Crisp County (9-0) next week for their de facto region championship.