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Unsung players getting their due

The state playoffs are just a few weeks away and the usual suspects — as well as a few new faces — are in the running of area teams that are hoping for postseason success.

Statesboro is churning along, ranked No. 5 in the Class AAAA polls and looking to clinch its sub-region this week. Bulloch Academy suffered a setback last week, but has a pair of home games to close out the regular season and attempt to notch a spot in the GISA playoffs.

One of the biggest surprises in the state has been Screven County. Winners of just two games last season, the Gamecocks have rattled off a 7-1 record so far and need just one win in their final two games to clinch the Region 3-AA championship and a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs.

Claxton is also in the postseason hunt. The Tigers have lost region play-in games in each of the last four seasons, but can now earn their way in via the new power poll. It will likely take a pair of wins in their final two games, but the Tigers could likely be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

All of these teams are likely to be at the forefront of discussions as the season winds down, but there are a handful of guys who don’t have any championships in their future that still deserve plenty of credit for a job well done.

For the juniors and seniors — and also for the underclassmen — of Southeast Bulloch, 2012 has been an up and down season. The Yellow Jackets had a quick start, let some heartbreaking games slip through their fingers, and stopped an unfortunate region losing streak among other things this season.

Last week’s loss to Beach put the Jackets on the brink of playoff elimination with two tough games to go. It’s very likely that SEB will miss out on the postseason for the ninth consecutive season, but that unfortunate story only masks the much more encouraging tale that is taking place in Brooklet.

When this season’s graduating Jackets like James Coto, Corey McCollum and Colton Prosser began their high school careers, they walked into a dire situation. Their team was struggling to loss after loss, there was little spirit on the sidelines or in the stands, and the roster numbers were dwindling.

The same held true for the class of 2014 that entered the next season as SEB’s struggles continued.

For boys that were just 15 and 16 years old at the time, it would have been all too easy to join classmates that would rather sit at home on Friday nights instead of supporting or building the team. But the Jackets’ upperclassmen made the choice to stick things out for the long haul and put in their best effort.

The results were minimal at first and wins were a long time in coming, but there is no doubt about the change that is taking place in Brooklet.

The roster is filling out and will only get larger as the younger three classes far outnumber the seniors on this year’s squad. The atmosphere has also taken a drastic turn for the positive. Fans have been showing up in droves to support their Jackets and this year’s opening of the new Fred Shaver Field has made every home game a first-class affair.

Most importantly, the wins are starting to roll in.

SEB picked up its first region wins since 2008 this season and head coach Pat Collins is certain not to let his team rest on a few good performances as the Jackets move forward.

So when the playoffs are in full swing, there won’t be any Yellow Jackets flashing across the screen, but due to the work put in by the current SEB players, perhaps that privilege isn’t so unlikely for future Jackets.

This year’s squad won’t raise banners, but that’s because they’ve been too busy building a foundation.


Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.