It’s been a long time since the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets have won a state playoff football game, but the tide turned Friday night as the Yellow Jackets defeated the Long County Blue Tide 42-16 snapping a state playoff winless drought that goes back to the 1973 state championship season.
Fittingly enough the Jackets were able to accomplish their goal on Fred Shaver Field in front of the last man to lead the Jackets to a playoff win, Fred Shaver himself.
“We have been waiting so long for this to happen and I am so excited,” said coach Shaver. “I am so proud and tickled for these young men who worked so hard to get this done. The coaching staff did great this year and the support has been so strong. I am just tickled to death.”
The Jackets have won four region titles since 1973 and have made it to the playoffs 13 times since then but Friday the players and coaches were proud to be able to do something that meant so much to the Brooklet community.
“I know what this means for our kids, but it means so much for our community as well,” said Zito. “48 years is a long time to wait for something like this. I am so happy we could do this for the folks here, for the school, for people like Fred Shaver and Mike Sparks who I am so glad are here tonight. It is a special night. There have been a lot of years of almosts and tonight our guys got it done and I’m so proud of them and the coaching staff.”
“This win is for the city of Brooklet,” said SEB running back Tradon McBride. “We did this for all the players who came close and for the city of Brooklet. It’s been 48 years and we knew we had to turn it up tonight.”
Qarterback Khristian Clark rushed for over 100 yards and scored three touchdowns in the game and knew what a win meant for the community.
“We all felt like we had to do this tonight for all the coaches and players that came before us,” said Clark. “We knew it had been 48 years and we were going to do all we could to get a state playoff win for the city of Brooklet. Now we are ready to make more history.”
Junior defensive lineman Terry Mikell helped anchor a defense that didn’t allow the Blue Tide into Southeast Bulloch territory until late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.
“The first time in 48 years it feels so good we are all so proud we could do it,” said Mikell. “Being a part of the 48 club is a dream come true. I love my teammates and the coaches and we are ready to keep on rolling.”
The game was never really in doubt as the Jacket players were able to stick to the game plan coach Zito had implemented which was to get ahead early and force the Blue Tide to get out of their ball control offense and make them play catch up. The Jackets opened up a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, took a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
“We had the best week of practice we have had all season this week,” said Zito. “We carried that onto the field and executed the way we have been doing in practice. I told them all year they had the chance to be a special team if they put it all together and I feel like they did that tonight.”
The Southeast Bulloch defense set the tone holding on the first two series and after missing an opportunity to score on their initial drive the Jackets came through with a big play for the first points. Quarterback Khristian Clark threw a pass to Tyler Griffin behind the line of scrimmage, Griffin then chucked it 35-yards to a wide open Jontavious Scott who hauled it in. Andrew Slone’s extra point made it 7-0.
On the ensuing pooch kick the Tide fumbled the ball giving the Jackets the ball on the 23-yard line. On the very next play Griffin took off up the middle fighting through a couple of tackles to extend the lead to 14-0.
Clark then took over for much of the second quarter as he broke off a couple big runs opened up by an impressive game by his offensive line. Clark scored on touchdown runs of 12 and three yards to extend the lead to 28-0 at the half.
The second half was much more of the same as the Yellow Jacket offensive line-controlled things, as did the Southeast Bulloch defensive line. A 42-yard pass from Clark to Griffin set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Tradon McBride to make it 35-0. The final points for the Jackets came on Clark’s third touchdown run of the game from three yards away. Long County added a couple touchdowns late with the SEB second string in the game for the final points of the evening.
“This is a special place and it’s why we came here,” said Zito. “This place has a lot of history and tradition and I’m honored to be a part of it and I am so glad these guys got a chance to get this thing done.”
Up next for the Yellow Jackets will be a tall test as the Jackets head up to Ellenwood Georgia for a matchup with No. 6 ranked Cedar Grove who won Region 5 with a record of 7-1 and are the No. 1 seed. Cedar Grove advanced with a 79-0-win Friday night over White County.