Southeast Bulloch head coach Jared Zito felt like the Yellow Jackets were embarrassed after last year’s 56-14 loss to Statesboro in the annual Erk Russell Classic. Saturday night the two teams met again, and while Statesboro came out on top again, the 12-7 game was a far cry from last year’s performance and both coaches left the field with plenty of positives.
For Statesboro head coach Matt Dobson, it was a successful return to Paulson Stadium where he helped the Eagles win a Sun Belt Championship, and Saturday was the site for his first coaching victory.
“It was a cool experience for me and the kids and I am fired up for them,” Dobson said. “We have a lot of things to clean up but I am really proud of their effort. Our defense did great and we played hard on both sides of the ball. I felt like we were physical and I was happy the way our offensive line took over at the end of the game and we were able to run out the clock.”
For Zito he would have loved to have been able to finish off his final drive and felt the Jackets left some points on the scoreboard but overall, he was proud of the effort.
“I thought we battled throughout and I thought that was the kind of game it would be tonight,” Zito said. “Games like this make you better for region play. I’d love to be on the other side of one of these games, but I’m proud of the way we fought and if not for a few plays I think we had a great chance to come out with a win. There was plenty of positives to take away from this game.”
Southeast Bulloch trailed 12-0, but fought back to make it a one score ballgame at 12-7. The Jackets marched down to the Statesboro 30-yard line with about four minutes left in the game, but a pair of costly penalties pushed them back to midfield. They would punt it away, and never saw the ball again as Statesboro was able to run out the clock.
“We gave up a couple big plays and weren’t able to capitalize after driving down to the one-yard line early in the game,” Zito said. “We hung in there and I thought we would be able to score on that final drive and eat up all the clock, but penalties are part of the game and those two really killed us.”
Neither team was able to move the ball early on, but just before the end of the first quarter Kyon Taylor broke loose on a 38-yard run inside the Statesboro 10-yard line. The Jackets would get the ball inside the one-yard line, but on fourth and goal the Statesboro defense held strong and forced a turnover on downs.
Statesboro came back to score quickly as quarterback Bruce Yawn found Josh Howard on a bubble screen and Howard raced down the sidelines 84-yards for the score. The point after failed and Statesboro took a 6-0 lead.
That score held up through the half, but early in the third quarter Yawn tossed a pass on the near sidelines to Kyan McCollum who slipped a defender and went 30-yards into the end zone. The two-point conversion failed leaving the score 12-0.
The Jackets were able to take advantage of the game’s only turnover later in the third quarter. Cole Snyder sent a deep kick which was misplayed by Howard and scooped up by Layne Alford at the Statesboro 32-yard line. The Jackets managed to convert a big fourth and three on a great effort run by quarterback Will Nelson. SEB was able to cash in a few plays later as Kyon Taylor scored from one-yard away to cut the lead to 12-7.
Statesboro struggled to move the ball, but pinned SEB deep midway through the fourth. The Jackets managed to move the ball down to the Statesboro 30-yard line with a mixture of passes and runs, but after two penalties and a sack by Amontrae Bradford, SEB was forced to punt and Statesboro ran out the clock.
“I realy think our kids needed a win here tonight,” Dobson said. “We have a good football team but we really need to clean things up. I think we are getting better and that is what you want to see week to week.”
Both teams are now 1-1 on the season. Up next for Statesboro they will be at Effingham County Friday night. Next up for SEB they will be off this Friday and then at Effingham County on Sept. 8.