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SEB, Portal looking forward to fall
SEB web
Southeast Bulloch quarterback Jaylon Wells, center, outraces the Appling County defense for a 49-yard touchdown run down the sideline in the second quarter of the Yellow Jackets' 2014 season finale.

    Southeast Bulloch’s head football coach Pat Collins said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about this season, and he has every right to be.
    The Yellow Jackets graduated just four seniors, have a lot of strength and are returning a “freshman phenom” running back from last year.
    SEB has a chance to make some noise in the region and Collins said this year’s team has high expectations.
    “We just want to build on our program, we’re entering this season with very high expectations,” Collins said. “I think the important thing is how these guys will play for each other and how they will come together.”
    As SEB preps for another season of smash-mouth football, here’s some key aspects to watch before the start of the 2015 season.

Overview: Due to GHSA regulations, the Yellow Jackets won’t have spring practice due to having two spring scrimmage games schedules.
    The Yellow Jackets, however, will hold a combine style-camp to prepare for the season Monday. SEB is coming off a 5-5 season last year and graduated just four seniors.
    Collins will look towards his senior class to issue a new era in SEB football.
    “The group i’m looking to is the seniors. There’s positive signs with our senior group and I feel comfortable about our senior class,” Collins.
Who to watch: The Yellow Jackets will return its leading rusher Chase Walker who ran for 1,300 yards last year. Walker will be just a sophomore this year and can definitely make an impact of the offensive side of the ball.
    “He had an exceptional year and he was extremely strong, unusually strong for a ninth grade boy,” Collins said. “He was definitely the benefactor of some solid line play.”
    Collins said the key for Walker will be the adjustment to his sophomore year. Last year Walker was an unknown factor, this year teams may set up a game plan for the young SEB standout, Collins said.
    Collins also noted the improvement of some of the skill positions in this year’s lineup.
This summer SEB will send 37 boys to individual skills camps. 15 to quarterback/wide receiver camps and 22 will go to  lineman and tightends camp.
    “I think it shows the commitment of our players,” Collins said. “They’re really dedicated.”

Inside look: Despite a tough opening schedule, the Yellow Jackets will benefit from some home cooking this year as SEB could possibly have as many as 10 home football contests.
    “We are going to be in Brooklet nine times this season. That’s great,” Collins said, excited about the potential for playing at home. “It’s good for our school and the community. It cuts down on travel expenses and people can come out and get excited about our football team.”
    Collins said there’s still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that the Yellow Jackets have to put together before the staff makes predictions on how the season will go. However it’s not hard to see why football fans in Brooklet have a reason to be “cautiously optimistic.”

Portal building up

    Portal’s football team didn’t have spring practice this year, and that’s exactly what head coach Jon Willoughby prefers.
    The Panthers will play two scrimmage games this season, with a game against Southeast Bulloch and Hancock Central on the schedule.
    “I thought it worked out well (not having spring practice) last year,” said Portal’s second-year head coach. “I thought we got way more out of playing a game-like situation in August.”
    As the Panthers have their eyes set on August, here’s a few things to look for in the 2015 year.

Overview: In Coach Willoughby’s first year as head coach for Portal the Panthers finished 3-7. Now in his second year at the helm, Willoughby said he’s excited for the start of the year.
    “That’s the beauty of high school football. Every year you’ve got a different team. I’m excited about the bunch that’s coming back,” Willoughby said.
    The Panthers graduated five seniors from last year’s squad, including a starting quarterback who has been in the starting role since his freshman year.
    Portal will be returning a lot of experience on the field in key positions.
    “Defensively, we’ve got a bunch of folks that have played for us last year,” Willoughby said. “Those guys have been through the fire. They’ve all got game experience.”
    Including two scrimmage games, the Panthers will be on the road for the first five games of the season.
    “Our goal this season is to win the very last game. I mean, why not us. We can get it done,” Willoughby said.

Who to watch: Darius Huff will be one of the key players to watch for this Panthers’ team. Huff, one of the leading rushers for Portal last season, had an injury in one of the last games of the season that would sideline him for the rest of the year.
    Willoughby said Huff has worked hard in the off-season to get back to form.
    “He is without a doubt a leader for us. He’s the one doing the leading and that’s good,” Willoughby said. “He worked like a trojan horse and he’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
    Zac White will also be a returning player for the Panthers to watch. Willoughby said White is a “man-child,” and will rely on him for leadership in 2015.

Inside look: The big question for this Panther’s team will be who will replace former Panthers’ quarterback Evan Street?
    Coach Willoughby said he will have three players tryout for the starting role this season. Willoughby said he will play “favorites” this season to determine who will get the starting position.
    “I’ve got favorites. That’s no secret. My favorite is going to be whoever plays the best,” said Willoughby. “The one that shows up and works the hardest will be the quarterback.”