BROOKLET — Many people thought that getting Southeast Bulloch’s football program turned around would be a slow and grueling process.
One win might not qualify as a resurgence, but it does stand as a proclamation that the Yellow Jackets are here to play.
And while it will only go down as a single win in the record books, it certainly seems like much more to a community aching for its team to succeed.
“This win really extends beyond just our players and coaches,” said first-year SEB coach Pat Collins. “Everyone has had a part in this. From the cheerleaders on the sidelines to everyone supporting us financially or by showing up in the stands, this win was every bit as much their doing.”
Collins was also quick to point out two individuals who have been key in helping him boost the program since taking the reins this spring.
“First off, I need to thank our principal, Dr. Trey Robertson,” said Collins. “To be successful, any program needs resources and Dr. Robertson has provided us with everything that we have asked for.
“(Former SEB) Coach Fred Shaver has also been instrumental. He has talked with our boys and really shown them just how much they mean to all of their fans in Brooklet.”
The Jackets’ 37-12 victory over Portal marked SEB’s first win since defeating Dodge County in the first game of the 2008 season. The losing streak — which spanned 19 games — loomed over the program, but instead of trying to ignore it, the Jackets chose to confront their issues head on.
Before the season, Collins made it clear that priority number one was to stop the streak. Now that the first item is checked off, SEB is eager to keep going.
“It’s just one win, but it was the fruit of a lot of labor,” said Collins. “We certainly enjoyed breaking that streak, but this week, we’ve been hard at work because we know that we still have a long way to go.”
One of the most drastic changes for the Jackets was the overall explosiveness and big-play potential that they were able to put on the field.
SEB utilized a controlled passing game, a handful of dangerous running backs and a big kickoff return to record its biggest single-game point total since the 2006 season.
Senior running back Dee Odum showed his potential last season and, with his three touchdowns, got the new year off to a good start, but the emergence of other threats around him has shown that this season’s Jacket offense is a balanced attack that opponents should be wary of.
“We put up some points, but I wouldn’t say that we were totally clicking,” said Collins. “I give a lot of credit to our defense. They gave us the ball in good field position many times. We only converted about half those times, so hopefully we can improve on that and really get going.”
But offense, defense, and statistics aside, the biggest change for this season’s Jackets is the intensity and heart that they have shown.
Big plays will happen and big hits will be made, but it’s the little things like running up to the line and playing to every whistle that are signaling a turnaround for SEB.
Helping to institute this new attitude are the seniors and juniors who have suffered the past two seasons and are leading the way towards progress.
“I’m thrilled for those boys and very proud of them,” said Collins. “They showed a lot of character sticking it out through some very tough times. They’ve continued to work hard and improve and have set a great example for everyone else in the program.”
With the streak dead and the elephant finally out of the room, SEB refuses to rest on its laurels. Collins and his crew know that they aren’t digging their way out of the past two seasons overnight, but are also resolved to keep working until they finally do.
“I’m not sure how many games we’ll win,” said Collins. “What I do know is that this is a program that is committed to winning and improving. That’s what we’re out there every day to do.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.