The first round of the playoffs are done, as is football within Bulloch County.
Southeast Bulloch’s season ended Friday in a 35-7 loss at Worth County. While the Yellow Jackets did well just to be in the playoffs, they were simply overmatched by Worth County throughout last week’s game.
However, on the fringes of Bulloch County other teams had their first round games go much better. Screven County handled Toombs County with a solid second half performance and Emanuel County Institute got to stay home via first round bye.
In other news, Statesboro head coach Steve Pennington resigned his post Friday — a week after the Blue Devils concluded an 0-10 season with a 35-9 loss to Wayne County. It wasn’t unreasonable to think changes were going to happen at Statesboro after four wins in three seasons, but Pennington’s departure was still tough for those around the program.
For a more expanded view on prep football, we’ll break it down from here:
For the first time in nearly 18 years, Statesboro High School is without a head coach. The last of Buzz Busby’s staff is gone — as probably is the success he brought all the way back in 1999. Statesboro has an identity crisis, and now the administration will be tasked to find a man who can bring it back.
From 2004 to 2013, Pennington’s teams had devastating defenses that made Statesboro a state title contender year-in and year-out — continuing the tradition left behind by his predecessor Busby. In 124 games through that span, Statesboro allowed an average of 11.6 points per game.
However, the last three seasons saw a major drop in the defensive department. In 30 games from 2014 to now Statesboro has given up an average of 26.9 points per game. That’s more points than Statesboro averaged per game on offense from 2004 to 2013 (25.2).
Perhaps even more of an indictment on the last three seasons was the lack of offense. Statesboro scored a total of 334 points in the last three seasons. To put that into perspective, the 2013 team scored 338 points in 12 games.
While this isn’t the place to try and diagnose all of the problems that brought upon Statesboro’s downfall, just know the proof is in the numbers. Whoever is hired by the Statesboro brass has a long way to go in bringing the Blue Devils back to life.
SEB’s football season came to an abrupt close on Friday when they traveled three hours west to Worth County to be upended by the Rams 35-7. At the end of the season, the Yellow Jackets are still without the region title or the long-sought after playoff win they covet so much.
SEB’s vaunted rushing offense was consistently stuffed all night long, only gaining 113 yards on 32 carries. All the while Worth County almost tripled SEB’s rushing production on just 12 more carries.
SEB struggled through the air even more, giving up first downs on all eight pass completions Worth County had. To make matters worse, Worth County fired a full-sized artillery cannon every time they scored to celebrate — nearly giving a certain sports writer covering the team a heart attack upon every blast.
Perhaps losing nine starters on defense was a sign for struggles in 2016. Every loss had a constant for SEB: 30 points or more were given up in those five games. But even more unusual, the offense struggled to score more than 16 points in four of those losses, making the problems seem even more widespread than the defense.
But now SEB will be without a senior class that has never endured a losing season. They’ll go out 24-17-1, the best record of any senior class since 2004. Head coach Pat Collins has a lot of work ahead of him filling in those gaps for next season.
Outside of Bulloch County, football is going much better. Screven County did what they’ve done in the first round since head coach Ron Duncan took the helm: dominate.
Toombs County managed one touchdown in garbage time in the fourth quarter after recovering a fumble on the Screven one yard line. Outside of that blunder Screven controlled the game from start to finish, and the star of the game was Screven quarterback Armani Bunbury.
Bunbury threw for 274 yards on just 18 passes and four touchdowns passes to help put the Gamecocks over the top. Bunbury totaled 343 yards through sky and land to also break the Screven County single season record for touchdown passes in a season (18).
Tyquan Johnson would catch three of those touchdown passes, totaling five catches and 142 yards on the night. JaTarri Tankersley added another four receptions for 90 yards, only adding to the arsenal of scary weapons Screven has at their disposal for Douglass (Atl.) on Friday.
But what now lies ahead of Screven County is the real hump in the road. Screven hasn’t advanced out of the second round of the playoffs since 2002 when they won the state championship, and Douglass is coming off a 28-7 win over Elbert County in the first round.
ECI didn’t lose on Friday because they couldn’t. Class A has first round byes for their one seeds, which ECI was good enough to nab following a 9-0 season.
It’s been almost three months since ECI has let a team get within five touchdowns of beating them, but their schedule was littered with opponents who just couldn’t compete with them on a talent level.
It was clear since not a single team in class A has been able to score than 14 points on them or hold them under 44 points. But now the real test begins for ECI to prove themselves to the rest of the class, starting with Miller County this Friday.
Miller hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 23 in a 34-18 game against Pelham. Despite a close 29-28 first round game with Bowdon last week, Miller still poses the best team ECI has played all season.