BROOKLET — Screven County travels to Brooklet Friday to renew its annual rivalry with Southeast Bulloch, and while there may be only one game, there is certainly no shortage of subplots.
The Region 3-AA rivals have met 26 times in their history, with Screven holding a slim 14-12 margin thanks to victories in each of the past four seasons.
"Southeast Bulloch and Screven County is a great rivalry," said SEB coach Pat Collins. "It’s very intense. You’ve got two schools that are pretty close to each other and two communities that are very similar. Both love their football, so you know that there’s a lot of passion out on that field."
As much as SEB has been a punching bag for the rest of the region in the past few years, the opening weeks of 2010 have seen the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 0-1 Region 3-AA) serve notice that that will no longer be the case.
SEB trounced Portal in the season opener to break its 19-game losing streak and also defeated Long County before falling to Bleckley County in Cochran last Friday. As much confidence as the opening wins instilled in the Jackets, Collins and company remained focused on improving and haven’t changed their outlook after suffering their first defeat.
"We made some mistakes, and it cost us last week," said Collins. "There’s nothing wrong with our boys though. Everybody came back to practice this week with a good attitude. We know that we’ve got a big region game this week, so we’ve got to get right back to work preparing for Screven."
In a change of pace, it is Screven County (0-3, 0-1) that has stumbled out of the gate.
The Gamecocks have been able to put points on the board, but have been unable to slow down opponents, allowing an average of 37.3 points per game. This may finally be the year for SEB to exact some revenge on its old rival after dropping the last four meetings by an average score of 38-9.
Of course, as much as they want to take down Screven, the Jackets’ mindset has much more to do with the current season than what has happened in the past.
"This is a big game for us," said Collins. "Of course, Screven is a rival, but they’re also in our region. Getting those region wins are very important to the goals we’re trying to achieve."
With matching 0-1 records in region play, Friday's game holds a lot of weight for each team's postseason aspirations.
Only four teams will advance out of the 9-team region and an 0-2 start would put either team in a big hole with the amount of talent awaiting on the schedule.
Screven has finished one win shy of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. SEB hasn't seen the postseason since 2005.
Off the field, the biggest talking point for this week’s matchup is Collins.
He was the head coach of Screven for the past four years and is directly responsible for each of the four wins currently comprising the Gamecocks’ winning streak over the Jackets.
Collins returned to SEB — he started his head coaching career with the Jackets 17 years ago — this spring and has quickly turned around the fortunes of the slumping program. Even though he quickly acknowledges that the Jackets have a long way to go, the entire community of Brooklet has caught SEB fever and is sure to be out in full force Friday to cheer on the coach who has caused them headaches recently.
"This isn’t about me," said Collins. "This is about two teams going out there and playing. I’ve got the utmost respect for the boys that will be on the other sideline that I coached last year. I’ve got a lot of relationships with a lot of great coaches and people over in Sylvania, but once the game starts, you’ve got to try to put that aside, go out there, and try to get a win."
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.