Head Coach: Pat Collins (5th season, 14-26-1)
Last Season: 7-3-1, 5-2 (3rd, Region 1-AAA)
2013 Postseason: Lost to Jefferson County in first round
Key Losses: Cole Carter, QB; Tyler Epps, RB
Key Returners: Weston Edenfield, TE; Isaiah Francois, LB
Aug. 29 at Pierce County
Sept. 5 at South Effingham
Sept. 12 at Bryan County
Sept. 19 DODGE COUNTY
Oct. 3 BEACH*
Oct. 10 SAVANNAH*
Oct. 17 JOHNSON*
Oct. 25 at Jenkins*
Oct. 31 ISLANDS*
Nov. 7 Region 1-AAA play-in*
*- Region 1B-AAA game
Southeast Bulloch saw many years of constant losing and frustration fade into the mist last fall as it earned a spot in the state playoffs for the first time since 2003.
But those celebrations are long gone, and now the only question is whether or not the Yellow Jackets can continue the program’s growth into a perennial contender.
There will be plenty of hurdles to clear if SEB wants another shot at the postseason. Gone is near-2,000-yard rusher Tyler Epps, veteran quarterback Cole Carter, and four-fifths of an offensive line that paved the way for the highest scoring SEB team in ages.
“There are going to be lots of new faces,” SEB coach Pat Collins said. “That said, we have a lot of faith in what we can accomplish. Some of this year’s starters might be new from last year, but they have earned their positions and — lucky enough for us — I think we can still have success by doing a lot of things that worked for us last year.”
Offense keyed success last season, but the 2014 Jackets will have a veteran defensive squad to rely on.
Isaiah Francois — an All-Region 1-AAA selection last year — and Simba Fields return to their linebacker positions as three-year starters while Justin Youmans and Klayton Carter return to the secondary and Andrew Stansill bumps up from linebacker to defensive end.
Offensively, SEB will again rely on a steady running game — though a few more wrinkles might get thrown in.
Austin Cowart is the only returning starter from the best offensive line in the region last season, but will have help from promising underclassmen and some transfers into the program.
Weston Edenfield made All-Region as a tight end last season, and will feature as a wing-back this fall.
Added versatility will come through a stable of running backs that run the spectrum of power and athleticism. Lamont Ballard and Javarious Spalding will line up at receiver and will give SEB a downfield threat that it has previously lacked.
Lining up under center will be junior Jaylon Wells, who will be asked to do everything from handing off, to firing downfield, to keeping plays alive with his feet.
“Jaylon has really matured over the last year,” Collins said. “We’ve put a lot of responsibility on him, and he’s responded. I feel like a lot of our guys have been asked to do more and have stepped up. That has us very optimistic about the season, and I know we expect to continue to win ballgames.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.