In a time where hugging has been taken out of society due to the novel coronavirus, Barrett Davis embraced his quarterback Khristian Clark before sending Clark out to ice the biggest game of Clark’s career.
For the first time since 1994, Southeast Bulloch clinched a football region championship, this time with a 21-7 home victory against Liberty County.
Before the game, Davis told his team to savor the moment and play like it's the last game, but he also wanted to treat the region championship like any other GHSA regular season game.
It was business as usual for the full 48 minutes and when the clock read all zeroes, the Yellow Jackets (4-2;1-0) celebrated.
“It’s just another game,” said Clark, capping off his senior year with a region championship. “First region championship in a long time, but we did good.”
Friday night’s game was a culmination of a long offseason of everyone contributing to the end goal. Clark put up 73 yards through the air. Seniors Jeremiah Rubin and Adrian Taylor combined for 126 total yards and a score. Senior Waylon Knight didn’t let the Panther offense get into any sort of rhythm.
Especially in the second half, the Yellow Jackets were destined for a title.
“These kids competed and it's the first time in 25 years that we’ve been able to bring a region championship to the city of Brooklet,” said Davis, who becomes just the third head coach in SEB’s 54-year history to win a region title. “I’m proud of these guys. They fought hard all the way through the end of the game.”
Liberty County made the home team earn it in the first half, though.
After allowing the Yellow Jackets to a 6-play, 68-yard scoring drive and coming up with the fumble, the Panthers went to work. Marques Johnson had two carries to pick up 27 yards to end the first quarter before wide receiver Meon McLeod found a wide-open Panther receiver who walked into the end zone to tie the game.
SEB responded quickly. Tyler Griffin rushed for a four yard gain, then Taylor and Chris Rawls each picked up two more yards.
On a 2nd-and-15, Clark rolled to his left before launching a ball to Rubin. Rubin fought off two defenders to come down with the catch, scoring on a 58-yard pass play to regain the lead.
With a 14-7 halftime lead, the Yellow Jackets kicked an onside kick to begin the second half. They almost recovered it.
“We tried to keep level heads and realize that it’s just another game, but we also knew what was at stake,” Davis said. “I told the guys before the game to live in the moment.”
Liberty had great field position at the SEB 49, but Knight and the Yellow Jacket defense didn’t budge. On 4th-and-6 from the SEB 45, Liberty’s Paul Brown was swallowed up by Knight and the defense.
Next drive, Clark pushed his way into the end zone from the 1 to extend the lead.
That’s all they needed to extend SEB’s playoff streak to six years in a row.
“We switched up personnel there on the defensive line to take away their strengths,” Davis said. “I thought we did good there. The secondary played by not allowing any big plays for the most part. We were effective against the run. They were trying to work the outside and we got in there and took care of it.”
Davis realizes there are still at least two games before the GHSA AAA playoffs, and he’s hoping to add one or two more games to the regular season schedule. He broke down the huddle at the end of the game reminding his team that there’s still work to be done.
But for at least one night, he’s satisfied.
“God had a plan for my life and it’s right here. Just so proud of these kids,” said Davis, smiling and holding his daughter. “They had the opportunity to leave their legacy and boy did they do that.”