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Yellow Jackets fall on touchdown pass in final seconds
SEB Football
Southeast Bulloch Chris Jones, lower right, is caught in the middle of a celebration after Hephzibah's Jesus Escalara catches a pass for the game-winning score on the last play of the game on Friday, Sept. 22. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

BROOKLET - It was a heartbreaking homecoming for Southeast Bulloch on Friday night as Hephzibah completed a touchdown pass on the game’s final play to come away with a 26-21 victory. 

The Rebels (4-1) drove 68 yards over the 94 seconds, aided by a personal foul by the Yellow Jacket defense, to complete the comeback when quarterback JJ Grant was able to find an open receiver in the end zone for a 14-yard score.

“We had good position. I thought we made a good play on the ball. I thought we got it out of there but apparently we didn’t,” said SEB Head Coach Jared Zito. 

“We made too many mistakes. We got a penalty deep down when we had them pinned back (in the first half). We had a personal foul facemask penalty (on the final drive) that let them advance the ball at the end,” Zito said. “Everybody’s going to look at that last play, and I understand that, but there were so many other plays in the course of that game that, if they’re different, we don’t have that last play.”

The Rebels were only able to take over after stopping SEB (3-2) on a fourth and two at their own 29. The Yellow Jackets took over with 7:59 remaining and were able to methodically march down the field, chewing up clock as they moved from their own 30 to the Rebels’ 29.

The Yellow Jackets were stuffed on the play, giving HHS just enough time to go in for the game winning score.

“I thought we executed really well offensively,” Zito said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t convert one more first down. I take some of that responsibility as a play caller.” 

Zito said the team will watch the film on Monday to see where the mistakes were in the game as they work to correct them.

“The reality is it didn’t come down to the last play,” Zito said. “It did in terms of the final score, but we made too many mistakes along the way that allowed that play to happen and that’s what I want to focus on. 

With the two teams tied at halftime, Hephzibah came out on the opening series of the third quarter and 72 yards over 11 plays, capped off by a Telly Johnson six yard run to give the Rebels a 20-14 lead. 

Southeast Bulloch responded on their next possession, going 69 yards on 12 straight rushing plays. Quarterback Will Nelson accounted for 42 yards on six carries while running back Quentin Reed  was able to find the end zone with a one yard run for this third score of the game. Cole Snyder’s extra point gave SEB a slim 21-20 lead. 

Southeast Bulloch opened the game going 70 yards, from their own 20 to the Hephzibah 10 where the drive stalled. A missed field goal left the game scoreless.

The Yellow Jackets opened the scoring early in the second quarter, with Reed plunging in from one yard out to give SEB the lead. Cole Snyder’s extra point put SEB ahead 7-6.

Following a misplayed kickoff by the Rebels, it appeared as though SEB would be able to pin the Rebels deep in their own territory. After stuffing a run at the Rebels’ five yard line, the SEB defense continued to push the HHS running back and eventually drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to give the Rebels a first down.

Hephzibah took advantage of the opportunity and four plays later, Grant found Antonio Heath on a swing pass to the right. Heath was able to break free and outrun the defense to the end zone for the score. The extra point was missed to keep SEB in the lead.

That lead wouldn’t last long as the Yellow Jackets would fumble away the ensuing kickoff and the Rebels would recover at the SEB 27.

Two plays later, Grant found Jaylon Alford on a swing pass to the left. Alford was able to weave his way through traffic and find the end zone. The Rebels converted the two-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead.

This time it was the Yellow Jackets turn to respond quickly. After a kickoff return to the SEB 41, it took the Yellow Jackets only two plays to score with Reed breaking free up the middle and raced 56 yards to the end zone. Snyder’s extra point tied the score and it would remain tied going into halftime.

On the night, SEB’s Reed had 176 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Nelson added 90 yards on the ground and Kyon Taylor had 65 yards rushing on 13 carries. On the night SEB ran for 339 yards.

“We could be 5-0 and it’d be great, but it doesn’t mean anything come playoff time,” Zito said. “Sometimes you get to learn some really hard and valuable lessons and if you them as you move forward, it’ll help you in region play.

The Yellow Jackets return to action Friday when the open region play on the road against Islands High School.