BROOKLET — The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets enter tonight’s Region 1-AAA play-in game on a five game winning streak. They’ll need to make it six if they want to make it to the state playoffs.
The Yellow Jackets (6-3, 5-0) will take on Appling County (5-4, 4-2) for the second consecutive year for the right to move on to the state playoffs in Class AAA. Last year saw the Pirates defeat the Yellow Jackets 34-26, ending SEB’s season.
The Pirates come in to tonight’s game averaging 286 yards per game on the ground while the Yellow Jackets are averaging 282. Junior quarterback Keelan Crosby leads the Pirate rushing attack with an average of 110 yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season.
But it was the two running backs, Japheth Morris and Devon Moore, that caught Collins eye when watching film of the Pirates.
“Our track coach knows those two guys,” Collins said, noting they competed in the 100 and 200 meter sprints for the Pirates.
“We have to keep their plays contained and not let them get outside,” Collins said.
The Pirates run a modified wing-T offense similar to SEB’s, but unlike the Yellow Jackets, the Pirates want to establish the outside run to set up the inside run while the Yellow Jackets do the exact opposite.
Southeast Bulloch’s defense has been stingy against the run this year, giving up 140 yards a game on the ground. The Yellow Jackets defensive line and linebackers will be key to slowing down Appling County’s offensive attack.
The Yellow Jackets ground game has been led by fullback Chase Walker who has 1,188 yards and 23 touchdowns so far. Michael Davis and Jaylon Wells have combined for 769 yards and six touchdowns.
With both teams relying on their running game, the defensive lines and linebackers will play a key role in determining the outcome. Collins said he expects as many as eight defenders crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the Yellow Jackets offense.
This is actually the fourth consecutive year Appling County and SEB have met on the regular season’s final night with the Pirates winning each of the previous three contests.
Region rules dictate that only Georgia High School Association passes will be accepted at tonight’s game. Admission for the contest, which is also set by the Region, is $8 and can be purchased at the game or at the school’s front office during the day.
Collins urged fans to buy tickets early as he’s expecting a big crowd.
“Our guys feed off the energy they get looking up and seeing the stands full,” he said.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 and will be streamed live on statesboroherald.com beginning at 7:20 p.m.
What to Watch
Ground Game: Both teams run the ball effectively and want to establish their running game as their primary offensive attack. The team that can control the line of scrimmage will have the upper hand.
Turnovers: Southeast Bulloch comes in to tonight plus-6 in turnovers. However, 10 of the 11 turnovers they’ve forced have been interceptions. With Appling County only averaging six passing attempts per game, the Yellow Jackets will likely need to force fumbles to win the turnover battle.
Home Field: By virtue of winning their sub-region, SEB earned the right to host tonight’s game. The Yellow Jackets are 6-1 at Fred Shaver Field this season and have won five straight at home.