In his first season as head coach Jared Zito led Southeast Bulloch to their first state playoff win in nearly 50 years. The Jackets ended the season with a record of 10-2 and were 5-1 in region play. This year the Jackets move up in competition making the leap to Class 4-A.
Zito recently wrapped up what he felt was a successful spring which saw about 100 players come out to participate.
“We may be moving up but we are talking about raising the bar within our program,” said Zito. “Moving into 4-A we have a new region and new goals. We had a great team last year but had some guys graduate and we are looking for guys who can fill their shoes.”
Zito feels one of the biggest differences from a year ago is the staff and players now know each other and what is expected from them.
“Everyone is familiar with each other this spring,” said Zito. “We have been able to get so much more accomplished this spring. That has made the task of trying to build depth and replace players a lot easier.”
There are some positions Zito feels pretty comfortable about but others he is desperately trying to find depth at. Among the key losses are a few starting offensive lineman as well as two players that went on to sign college scholarships with the loss of receiver Tyler Griffin and quarterback Khristian Clark.
“We graduated two starting cornerbacks as well as our quarterback,” said Zito. “Losing a playmaker like Tyler Griffin is tough as well. Gage DiGiovanni is doing a great job at quarterback right now and while you can’t replace Tyler, we have a few guys doing well at receiver.”
One area the Jackets return a lot of starters is up front on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“We return most of the defensive line from last year and they are doing great,” said Zito. “We did lose two seniors off of our offensive line and we are looking for some of our younger guys to step into those spots. Dalton Scott, Michael Dixon and Jayden Brown have all done a good job so far.”
For the first time ever in a regular season game the Jackets will be taking on Statesboro High as the two teams play in the Erk Russell Classic on August 27. Zito feels that is one of the things that has motivated the plyers through the spring.
“When I first got here, I asked people who our rival was and nobody could really come up with a definitive answer,” said Zito. “I am hoping this starts a rivalry with Statesboro High. For years Statesboro was a much larger school, but things have gotten a lot closer recently and now they are only one classification above us.”
“I think playing in the Erk Russell Classic is going to be great for our community,” said Zito. “It will be really neat for us to play in Paulson Stadium and will be something they will always remember. We are probably a little more focused on our first game which is a matchup with Liberty who beat us last year and kept us from winning the region title. It’s a non-region game but it is at home and I think it will also get our kids excited about the season.”