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SEB opens region play

Johnson, Sav. (0-4) at Southeast Bulloch (2-1)
7:30 p.m., Today

    BROOKLET — Southeast Bulloch is the first area team to kick off region play as the Yellow Jackets host Johnson of Savannah tonight at Fred Shaver Field.
    The Jackets (2-1) have seen some early success this season, but they’ll have to keep it up starting tonight if they want to make progress towards a spot in the postseason.
    Of course, given SEB’s recent struggles, just getting the first region win will be a great start.
    “It’s no great big secret,” said SEB coach Pat Collins. “We have gone 37 games without a region victory. Those are just the facts, but it’s something we’re looking to change. Our goal is to get that first region win. Once that happens, we’ll try to get a second and a third and so on.”
    To take that first step, the Jackets will have to get past the Atomsmashers (0-4, 0-1 Region 1-AAA). Johnson has taken its lumps early on due to one of the toughest schedules in the state. Johnson has been beaten by schools in higher classifications like Liberty County and Richmond Hill, lost a region contest to Appling County — which made it to the Class AA semifinals last season —  and was crushed by nationally-ranked Camden County.
    The Atomsmashers will be hungry for their first win of the season and are under the same pressure as SEB to get things going in region play.
    “Don’t let the record fool you,” said Collins. “Johnson has a talented team. We need to respect our opponent, but more importantly, we need to play our best game.”
    Last week, penalties and big plays came around to haunt the Jackets. In their 28-21 loss to Telfair County, the Jackets dug themselves an early hole, then weren’t able to give their offense enough possessions to complete a second half comeback.
    This week, the SEB defense has another tough task on its hands as it has to slow down an Atomsmasher squad that has shown a little bit of everything. Johnson played its first three games with a shotgun spread offense, but switched to a power look with three running backs last week.
    The 21 points Johnson scored last week are the only points it has scored this season, but a slight speed advantage over the Jackets might see the Atomsmashers spread out the field again.
    “We’ve prepared for a little bit of everything,” said Collins. “But no matter what they do, our goal remains the same. We need to make our tackles and stay away from silly penalties.”
    Offensively, the Jackets are simply looking to keep things going.
    The 105 points that they have scored through just three games is already the most that any SEB team has scored in a season since 2007. Collins’ Wing-T offense has done a solid job of hanging on to the ball and grinding out first downs, and the Jackets’ talented backfield has the explosiveness to create big plays if they reach the edge.
    “These guys have been in the same system for three years now,” said Collins. “I think that everyone here believes in what we’re doing. We’ve seen that this can work. We just have to keep improving with each day of practice and turn that into wins on Friday night.”

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