Southeast Bulloch is among the hottest teams in the area, but they’ll need to keep things that way if they want to carve out the best possible postseason scenario for themselves.
The Yellow Jackets (4-4, 4-1 Region 3-AAA) dropped their first three games of the season to a pair of Class AAAAAA teams and the defending state champs from Benedictine. The Jackets fell in their region opener against Jenkins, but have been rolling ever since, racking up four straight wins via three blowouts and a thrilling last-second comeback.
The Jackets made a big statement last week as they stampeded into Garden City and rolled to a 55-9 win over Groves.
“You always wonder about things when it’s fall break and it’s fair week,” SEB coach Steve Pennington said. “You want to keep your focus. We started out a little slow against Groves, but once we came around we really built up the momentum. We got a big win and — more importantly — we made big plays.”
The four-game run has SEB sitting in a three-way tie for second place in its region, with a state playoff berth already in its pocket. Jenkins is the lone undefeated team in region play and controls its own destiny, but a second place finish — and a home game in the first round of state — is within the Jackets’ control as they play the two teams they’re tied with in each of the next two weeks.
First up is a unique Saturday night game at Beach.
The Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) are the biggest turnaround story in the region this season. Beach went 2-8 last season as it was routinely competitive, but rarely good enough to find the win. This season, Beach has already secured a state playoff spot of its own and its first winning region record since 2002.
While SEB would need a lot of help to somehow leap over Jenkins for the region championship, the Bulldogs control their own fate. They finish their regular season schedule against Jenkins, meaning that wins in their final two games will give them their first region championship since 1993.
“Everybody is in control of their own destiny,” Pennington said. “Beach is the most formidable opponent we’ve seen since Jenkins. They are tremendous and diverse offensively. We need to remember that everything is a one-game season for us. We have to go out and play well in this one game.”
The Jackets will continue to rely on the bread and butter that is their inside run game. Fullback Chase Walker is well on his way to another 1,500 yard season and the season-long improvement of the offensive line — combined with additional help on the ground from Jontrell Wells and the emerging pass-and-catch duo of Blaize Minick to Tyler Bailey — has made SEB more dynamic than in years past.
The Jackets and Bulldogs are set to kick off at 7 p.m. A win for SEB would clinch at least a No. 3 seed in the state tournament and would set up another important showdown next week on Senior Night as they host Windsor Forest in the Statesboro Herald’s ‘Friday Night Live’ game of the week.