BROOKLET – Southeast Bulloch High School will send its baseball, soccer, and track teams into competition throughout the rest of the spring in search of region and state recognition, but one of the school’s most prestigious and highly decorated squads will wrap up its 2014 campaign this weekend.
On Saturday, SEB’s JROTC drill team heads to Metter to compete in its region meet.
The Yellow Jackets claimed two top finishes in the state last season and are aiming even higher this time around.
“Our squad has had an incredible season,” Sergeant Chuck Yeater said. “We finished first in five out of six events in our last competition. We’ll have our work cut out for us this week, but our goal is to win all six this time.”
Unfortunately for SEB, the region competition will be its last of the season, regardless of how well it performs. Even at the high school level, programs such as JROTC are being affected by sequestration measures and this year’s state drill competition has been cancelled, leaving region meets as the season’s final event.
“It’s a little disappointing,” senior and squad leader James Lanier said. “All of our seniors are leaving, but we also want to do our best for everyone coming back. We want to do our best so that next year can be just as good for everyone coming back.”
While other SEB sports compete at the Class AAA level of Georgia’s six-classification system, the Jackets’ drill team is grouped in with all other squads from all levels.
Even at the region level, SEB will take on Statesboro High — a much larger school by student population — on an otherwise level playing field.
Those odds may seem steep, but that has never stopped the Jackets before.
One quick look around the drill team’s trophy case reveals numerous state championship trophies stemming from excellence in all facets of competition. Squad, platoon, and color guard trophies all have their place in the program’s storied history.
This year’s squad has just 18 members and nearly all are required for different competitions throughout an event. Jackets may be forced to scramble from one competition to another just to fill out their ranks, but excellence has become the norm this season.
“Honestly, we were a little rough early on,” Lanier said. “In our first competition, we only managed one second place finish over all six events. We really pressed the younger guys hard and they responded. Now we think that we can compete against anyone in any competition.”
SEB is strong as a unit and also boast some exemplary individuals.
Along with Lanier, senior Adrienne Morris has been a driving force in the Jackets’ accomplishments.
Two years ago at the state competition, Morris helped her team, but also managed to score an impressive solitary achievement for her school.
Along with participants from all around the state, Morris took the field in the unarmed ‘knockout’ competition, in which participants were given commands in rapid-fire fashion and eliminated for even the slightest slip-up.
Morris can’t recall how long she followed orders, but when all was said and done, she was the last one standing.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Morris said. “I didn’t even know I had won until someone shook my hand and congratulated me.”
That sort of focus and dedication has made Morris a driving force guiding this year’s squad.
For her and Lanier alike, the sting of no state competition in the future is tempered by the drive to finish their role in leading their squad to continued excellence.
“I’m a little sad knowing that this weekend will be our last event,” Morris said. “But that doesn’t change anything. We’re working hard to win. We want to win and we expect to win. That’s always our goal.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.