BROOKLET – In their three-year history, Southeast Bulloch’s flag football team has never experienced defeat as the Yellow Jackets went in to Thursday's games on a 59-game winning streak.
After two more wins Thursday, the Yellow Jackets are now one win away from back-to-back-to-back state championships with victories over Therrell High School, 20-0, in the quarterfinals and then New Hampstead, 20-14, in the semifinals to extend their all-time record to 61-0.
“It doesn’t seem real right now, but it’s pretty awesome,” said SEB Head Coach Marci Cochran following the Yellow Jackets’ semifinal win. “I’m so excited. I’m excited for these kids. They deserve it. They’ve played their hearts out. They’ve worked hard and they deserve a chance to play in the Benz.”
By Benz, Cochran was referring to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to play for the state championship.
Cochran said she hoped the community would be able to travel for the game and support her girls.
“I’d really like to challenge our students to take a trip to Atlanta and support us up there like they did tonight,” she said.
Southeast Bulloch will face North Oconee High in the championship game is set for 2 p.m. Monday in Atlanta. North Oconee is located just west of Watkinsville.
Fans who can’t make the trip can watch the game on Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Thursday’s semifinal against New Hampstead was a rematch of a 2022 quarterfinal matchup that saw the Yellow Jackets win 19-0, en route to their second straight state title.
On their opening drive, Southeast Bulloch marched 66 yards on 10 plays culminating with Addie Hood catching a scoring pass from eight yards out. Hood bobbled the pass on the goal line, but was eventually able to snag it out of the air for the score to put the Yellow Jackets ahead, 6-0.
The Phoenix were forced to punt on their first possession and Alex Odom was able to return it 25 yards to the New Hampstead 21. Four plays later, Odom’s sister Natalya hauled in a short three-yard pass for the score, giving SEB a 12-0 lead.
Jaci Kitchings ran in the conversion to make it 13-0.
Meanwhile, Southeast Bulloch’s defense continued to dominate as they have all season, holding New Hampstead to only two first downs in the first half.
Late in the third quarter it appeared the Yellow Jackets were going to extend their lead when Chloe Cochran took a short pass and scored from eight yards out. However, an inadvertent whistle resulted in the play being stopped and the ball placed at the two-yard line as the third quarter expired.
Not to be denied, the Yellow Jackets scored on the next play when Natayla Odom caught a pass from quarterback Korine Talkington to extend the lead to 20-0.
New Hampstead was able to score on their next possession to trim the lead to 20-6. The Yellow Jackets were forced to punt on their next possession and with 40 seconds remaining and no time outs left, the Phoenix added another score to make it 20-14.
The two late scores are the only points SEB has allowed in the playoffs over four games in 2023.
But since there are no onside kicks in flag football, there was no chance for New Hampstead to get the ball back and SEB lined up in victory formation to run out the clock.
Alex Odom credited the team’s standout defensive play all year to being able to stick together.
“We keep our head’s clear,” she said. “We don’t let the little things get to us and we listen to our coaches and what they tell us to do.
“We communicate with each other a lot and we talk a lot and if (the other team gets a) big play, we figure out ways to fix it. We talk to each other to help figure out what happened,” she said.
Cochran credited her team with being able to adjust quickly since they had to prepare, just in case, for three different teams they might face in the semifinals.
“They can adjust quickly and on the fly after sitting out one game and come back and do a totally different gameplan.”
Jackets upend Therrell in quarterfinals
In the quarterfinal game, senior Ava King had a big night against Therrell High School with six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, including two big catches in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Yellow Jackets in their 20-0 win.
With SEB facing a fourth down and needing 10 yards for a first down, King was able to find a seam in the middle of the Therrell defense for a 22-yard gain. Two plays later, King found herself open in the end zone where Talkington found her for the score.
King also set up the first score of the night for the Yellow Jackets, hauling in a 38-yard pass down to the two-yard line.
It took the Jackets two more plays before Talkington was able to scramble to the right corner of the end zone to put SEB ahead, 6-0.
Alex Odom added a 17-yard score in the second quarter as the SEB offense was able to methodically move the ball for most of the game.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets held Therrell to two first downs on the night and just two plays inside SEB territory.
“Our defense played extremely well tonight,” Cochran said following the Therrell win. “That’s a good team and that’s a great quarterback they have. The deep ball wasn’t there tonight thanks to our corners and our rushers were getting in there and putting pressure on her.
“Our defense won that game for us tonight,” she said.