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Johnson (0-4) at SE Bulloch (2-0-1)
7:30 p.m., Today
BROOKLET — Things really start to heat up for Southeast Bulloch as Region 1-AAA play gets underway tonight at Fred Shaver Field.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0-1) made the leap up to Class AAA last season and performed well – winning four games in a season for the first time 2005 – but weren’t able to finish in the top half of their region to secure a state playoff berth. One of the region losses that hurt SEB was a 28-14 setback to Johnson of Savannah (0-4), which makes its way to Brooklet tonight.
Southeast Bulloch enters the game looking for its second revenge win in as many weeks. Last Friday, the Jackets made their way over to McCrae and avenged a 2012 loss to Telfair County, dominating early and then hanging on for a 35-26 win.
Another bit of vengeance tonight will put the Jackets on the right track toward their ultimate goal of reaching the postseason.
“We’re getting into the region schedule and we know what needs to be done,” SEB coach Pat Collins said. “We know that Johnson will be a great challenge. They might not have a win yet, but they were 0-4 last season when they came in here and beat us.”
The good news for SEB is that it is finally firing on all cylinders.
Three-year starting running back Antonio McMillan was injured in the preseason and didn’t see his first action until last week. McMillan didn’t miss a beat, carrying the ball 13 times for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Combined with fellow backfield veteran Tyler Epps (450 rushing yards and five total touchdowns this season) and an improving passing game, the Jackets are now featuring their most diverse attack in years.
“We still have our game plan that we won’t get too far away from,” Collins said. “But we’re able to do a few more things now, which makes us harder to plan for.”
If the Jackets can pull in front, it will be up to the defense to stop dual-threat quarterback Raquan Green.
Green leads the Atomsmashers with 165 rushing yards so far this season. He has completed just 44 percent of his passes, but things could have been much worse considering Johnson’s brutal early season schedule that has included Camden County and Liberty County.
Covering Johnson’s receivers will also be a challenge. SEB safety Keagan Carter had a big game last week, notching seven tackles and an interception. He’ll have to be on top of his game once again as the Atomsmashers feature a pair of receivers who stand 6-foot-5 and will tower over the SEB secondary.
“Johnson is a good football school, but they’re a great basketball school,” Collins said. “They’ve got a couple of receivers playing for them that are big even on the basketball court. It’s definitely a huge challenge to figure out how to cover guys like that.”
A win for SEB tonight will set up an interesting matchup next week. Savannah High missed out on the playoffs last season, but notched an upset win over Tattnall County – No. 3 seed in the region last season – in its region opener.
If the Jackets can pull off the win tonight and repeat last year’s success against Savannah, they could be well on their way to their goal of reaching the postseason.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.