Montgomery Co. (0-1) at SE Bulloch (1-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Fred Shaver Field
BROOKLET — For the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets, last week’s 21-6 win over Portal in the season opener was a big first step. For junior running back Tyler Epps, it was an explosion onto the scene.
Epps totaled 120 rushing yards on 14 carries and notched the Jackets’ first points of the season with a touchdown run in the first quarter.
“It was great to go out there and get a win,” said Epps. “Everybody was really working well together. Starting off with a win is always good.”
Epps saw plenty of action last year, but it was tough sledding on most of his carries as SEB struggled to a 1-9 record. This season, hopes are much higher for a team that has plenty of starters returning.
“This team has been together in the same system since their first snaps as freshman,” said SEB coach Pat Collins. “They have taken their share of lumps, but they’ve continued to make strides. Tyler had himself a good game last week, but it was a good game for everyone out there.”
Epps was in full agreement with his coach as he gave the offensive line most of the credit for his success. Last season, the entire line was composed of underclassmen who were often overpowered, leading to an ineffective running game. On Friday, Epps found plenty of open lanes on almost every carry and made Portal pay.
Despite standing just 5-foot-6, Epps packs a powerful punch. Most of his damage came on inside runs as he constantly bounced off of defenders and fought through tackles for extra yardage.
“Tyler is a kid who isn’t afraid of contact,” said Collins. “He’ll lower his shoulder and take the hits. For our inside running game, that’s a huge asset.”
The hard hits aren’t only reserved for games as Epps confesses to taking some of his aggression out on fellow Yellow Jackets.
“Even though I’m running the ball, I like the contact,” said Epps. “In practice, I might bounce runs to the outside, but I’ll usually turn it back in and look to take on whoever is trying to tackle me.”
That power running mentality makes Epps a perfect cog in the Jackets’ offensive strategy.
Collins’ Wing-T scheme aims to attack both inside and outside on the ground while taking a few shots through the air on play-action passes. Quarterback Cole Carter found some success throwing the ball Friday and fellow running backs Antonio McMillan and Corey McCollum used their speed to put constant pressure on the edges.
That just left Epps to pound out the tough yards right through the middle.
“In our scrimmage, we had success with running outside,” said Collins. “I think that Portal saw that tape and overplayed it a little. That left Tyler some room inside and he made the most of it.”
Now that Epps and the Jackets have tasted success, the real challenge is to keep things rolling.
“We worked hard all summer to prepare for that first game,” said Epps. “It’s good to get the win, but I think that will just motivate us more. I want to keep playing well and I know that it’s the same with everyone else here.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.