When Tyler Griffin went down with an injury midway through the third quarter, Southeast Bulloch head coach Barrett Davis held his breath.
Up to that point, Griffin had accounted for 162 yards of the Yellow Jackets offense in a close game against Grovetown. So Davis turned to his depth at running back.
Behind Chris Rawls, Adrian Taylor and Khristian Clark, SEB strung together a 17 play, 70-yard drive that ended with Rawls walking into the endzone to score the final points in a 20-7 victory Friday night in Brooklet.
A two-touchdown victory could’ve been a lot worse, with the Warriors putting up just 43 yards in the first half, but the home team couldn’t put them down.
GHS gained momentum for the first time of the night two plays after Griffin went down. With the ball in the Warriors 10-yard line, the Yellow Jackets fumbled the ball to set the Warriors up on their own 10.
The Yellow Jackets let up a few yards here and there, but a 73-yard run to the right from Joseph Jean gave the visitors their first points of the night with 3:57 in the third.
Cue the 17-play, eight minute game-sealing drive.
“Our offensive line was aggressive and did what they needed to do to keep us in the game and drain the clock, especially in the second half,” Davis said. “We were able to rotate and had more fresh backs throughout the second half. We came out and did what we were supposed to.”
Over the course of the night, SEB had players carry the ball. From seniors like Rawls to Taylor to underclassmen Logan Herring and Ayon Taylor, everyone wearing blue and gold pulled their weight on senior night.
After a GHS three-and-out to begin the game, Griffin and Rawls went to work. Griffin used two runs for 67 yards to set up a six-yard touchdown carry for Rawls with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
On the Warriors next drive, quarterback Jason Whitacker took matters into his own hands with two carries for 15 yards. The drive fluttered out with a personal foul penalty on GHS.
Clark and Griffin continued their stellar play behind their offensive line. Clark carried the ball for a 12-yard run before finding Griffin down the side for a 53-yard pass to put the Yellow Jackets on the GHS 32.
Five plays later, Clark faked a handoff to Griffin. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback held the ball up the middle and slammed the ball on the ground after scoring his first touchdown of the night.
“I thought our kids played hard,” Davis said. “Hats off to (GHS), they played hard on the defensive side of the ball. Our guys stepped up.”
A roughing the punter penalty prolonged GHS’ ensuing drive. Whitacker tried to punish the Yellow Jackets through the air, but was unsuccessful, giving the ball back with five minutes until halftime.
Neither squad could get into a rhythm in the final minutes of the half.
Following SEB’s third touchdown of the night, GHS looked to move the ball down and work to tighten the game. Senior defensive tackle Waylon Knight made sure that didn’t happen as he beat the o-line to pick up several sacks and TFLs.
“On defense, we mixed up fronts,” Davis said. “Our guys used their speed to our advantage against their offensive line. We had some fast guys up front and just gave them different looks to confuse their quarterback.”
The home squad was able to run out the remaining three minutes before sprinting over to celebrate with the marching band.
At 3-1, SEB now turns its attention to a 3-0 Washington-Wilkes team that boasts one of the top offenses in the state.
“We got a little banged up there at the end and we made a few key mistakes,” Davis said. “We have to watch film and figure out how to sustain drives, not turn the ball over.”