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Southeast Bulloch kicks off 2022 football season Thursday against Liberty County
Opening game set for 7:30 p.m. in Brooklet at Fred Shaver Field
Southeast Bulloch opens the 2022 football season Thursday against Liberty County on Fred Shaver Field in Brooklet. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets will get a jump on the rest of the area high school football teams as they host Liberty County Thursday night at 7:30 at Fred Shaver Field in Brooklet.

A shortage of football officials has caused many teams this year to move games to Thursday or Saturday night to accommodate the problems going on throughout the state. 

“We were notified by the Southern Eagle Officials Association that they had conflicts for three or four different weeks,” said SEB head coach Jared Zito. “Usually, they can substitute out for another group but because this is a statewide issue, they told us we were either going to have to pick a date and move to Thursday or Saturday, or they would have to do it for us.

“We would much rather do it for a non-region game early in the season rather than a region game that may make things more difficult on us.” 

The Jackets are moving into Class 4-A this year and held a scrimmage last Friday night against South Effingham. The Jackets held a 14-7 lead in the game, but saw the Rebels storm back to win 35-14.

Zito felt there were some positives he took away from the game, but there were also quite a few things they need to improve before Thursday. 

“I felt like we did some good things, but our bad things were really bad,” said Zito. “We had two turnovers which led to short fields and touchdowns. We also had a couple missed tackles and they were a little more physical than we were.

“Offensively I thought we did a lot of good things, especially up front. Our run game looked pretty good and Gage DiGiovanni threw a few really good passes at quarterback. Defensively we had our moments, but we pride ourselves in being better at tackling than we showed last Friday.” 

This week the Jackets open the season against last year’s region champs the Liberty County Panthers. The Jackets' lone regular season loss was a 28-20 defeat in Hinesville which prevented the Jackets from being crowned region champs, and left them thinking about what might have been.

“We are not region opponents this year and our main focus is going 1-0 for the week,” Zito said. “That being said, our loss to them last year cost us a region championship and a possible second round home playoff game. If kids need a little more motivation to get up for this game this may do it for them.”

The Liberty football family is still mourning the death of last year’s coach Kirk Warner who passed away over the summer after battling cancer. Last year’s offensive coordinator Tony Glazier has taken over as head coach and Zito says he has plenty of talent returning including receivers Ron Golden and D.J. Grant as well as running back Paul Brown.

“They have good athletes and we have to make sure we tackle well,” Zito said. “They have a couple of wide receivers who are capable of breaking off big plays and we have to make sure to contain them and not let anything go over our heads. On offense we have to eliminate turnovers and penalties we had last week.”

The Jackets and Panthers are scheduled for a 7:30 start Thursday night at Fred Shaver Field. The State Champion Yellow Jacket flag football team will be honored at halftime as they will be presented with their championship rings.