Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets

Buzzing About The Future

By: Colin Lacy news services

While 2023 didn’t yield the win totals that those in Jackets Country would have wanted, but there is a lot that shines a light from 2023 in the direction of the future.

Finishing up the season with a 4-6 mark overall and dropping the final 4 games of the year doesn’t sound positive, but the fact remains that Southeast Bulloch still held control of their postseason possibilities until the final horn of the season.

It’s no question that Region 3 in the 4A classification is one of (if not the single most) difficult region in the state. Benedictine, Wayne County, Burke County were all mainstays in the top 10 rankings for most of the season while New Hampstead, who earned the two seed in the region, many say (including myself) should have been in the top 10. SEB dropped all those contests but showed positives in all the games for Coach Jared Zito’s squad.

Nothing shows this more than the New Hampstead game.

The Phoenix jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but SEB answered with conviction.

After a 26-yard Cole Snyder field goal got the Jackets on the board, he then executed a perfectly placed onside kick for the blue and gold to recover.

One play later Will Nelson found Kyon Taylor on a throw back screen for the 36-yard touchdown. After the ensuing kickoff died at the 1-yard line, SEB forced New Hampstead to a three and out.

With the Phoenix punter standing in his own endzone, Kyle O’Brien burst through the line to block the punt that fluttered out of bounds at the 13-yard line. Yet again, one play later, Kyon Taylor took it in for a score. Just that fast (2:07 to be exact) SEB had gone from 14-0 down to up 17-14.

One week later, on the Yellow Jackets’ senior night against the #1 team in the state, Benedictine jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Southeast Bulloch’s Special Teams Coordinator Randy Lee had another trick up his sleeve. A fake punt saw Colby Smith scamper 48 yards and set up the first Jackets touchdown five plays later.

Individually, there was a lot of growth for the Jackets this year. Entering the season, the linebacking core was the focus on the defense, and they didn’t disappoint.

Kyle O’Brien led the way for SEB in the stats sheet and on the field anchoring the middle of the defense.

Colby Smith continued to be a terror to offenses in his sophomore season. That combination also helped bring along younger players, most notably freshman Brant Horst, who played a big role in the back half of the season and earned a start in the season finale against Burke County.

The biggest future phenom that showed in 2023 was one that the Jackets would have rather not had to find this year. With senior quarterback Will Nelson sidelined with injury the last 2 weeks of the year, Brooklet was introduced to Rhett Morgan (at least at the varsity level).

His first drive as a varsity signal caller resulted in a 9 play 70-yard scoring drive, and while the results were 0-2, the process looked promising.

With the GHSA reclassification having Southeast Bulloch return to the 3A classification, it only adds to the positivity moving forward in Brooklet.

While 4-6 isn’t the standard expected for SEB, what you saw in this season proves it won’t be the norm moving forward.

Busy Bee

By: Colin Lacy news services

In the off-season, it was well thought that rising senior Will Nelson would be the heir apparent to take over as QB1 for the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets.

After excelling as a two-year starter at safety for the Jackets, Nelson was tasked with learning and leading a completely revamped offense for SEB that made the move back to the split-back veer.

While that would be more than enough for many 16–17-year-olds, it’s far from all Nelson was focused on.

He had just completed his junior season for Southeast Bulloch Baseball, while also being an active member of numerous clubs and activities including Beta Club, National Honors Society and Future Business Leaders of America among others.

Was that enough for Nelson? Nope!

Last spring and into the summer, Nelson applied, interviewed, and was named one of two representatives for 4A on the 2023-24 GHSA Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

The GHSA Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) is a 20-person panel made up of student-athletes from all over the state of Georgia that are selected by a group of judges after a rigorous interview process.

Two representatives from each classification along with four at-large members make up the council each year. The SAAC is tasked with creating the connection between student-athletes, the GHSA Office, officials, and everyone that has a hand in high school sports to help promote sportsmanship and leadership.

“We’re just trying to influence a positive attitude and atmosphere around high school sports,” said Nelson. “We also want to push respect referee, and associates that help us, and spend their time to help us play our game and keep us safe during the game.”

The selection process begins with a full application process and must meet the minimum requirements that the applicant must be involved in at-least one club or school organization in addition to playing at-least one sport at the school.  After the application, comes the interview process where judges from all across the state that will be making the final decision.

This year, 116 applications were sent in from all corners of the peach state to select the 20-person council with Nelson and Sanaaya Thompson from Rutland High School getting the nod for the 4A classification.

“It defiantly means a lot to me to be able to represent not only SEB, but all of 4A,” said Nelson. “It can be a lot of pressure, but it’s an honor for sure.”

The GHSA SAAC will be voting on a couple yearly awards including the Student Section of the Year, as well as participating in a leadership conference in the winter.

All the off the field accomplishments and responsibilities haven’t taken away from his performance on the field leading Southeast Bulloch to a good start midway through the year.

He is the second leading rusher for the Jackets, behind senior running back Kyon Taylor and scored the first 3 rushing touchdowns of the season.

Multiple coaches around the SEB program have called Nelson a “Gamer Winner”. The confidence he brings on and off the field is incredibly impressive and is just the type of leader you would want for your program.

There are many words that can describe or label Will Nelson. Quarterback. Leader.  Student-Athlete. SAAC member. Son. Friend.

And somehow, he finds time to juggle all of them, and do it well.  Free time? Who needs it!


No ‘I’ In Team

By: Colin Lacy news services

What’s the Difference between a “Program” and a “Team”?

No matter what level sports, or what sport for that matter, the term “good program” gets thrown around as much as NIL.

The problem with this is just because a team is winning or performing well, doesn’t mean that it’s a good program.

Everybody knows what a good team looks like. Impressive stats, good players, and a lot of wins. But what does a good program look like? Is there a standard? Does it have something to do with Nick Saban’s “process”?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you stop hearing the term “program” past the college level. Nobody would say that the Atlanta Falcons are a good “program”. Good Team? So far. Good Organization? Yes. Good Franchise? Yes….most would say yes. It’s mainly college and high school sports entities that people talk about being a “program”.

To me, in order to be labeled as a “good program” it’s about development. Developing young men and women into great athletes, yes, but also developing the whole person.

Since sports fans are looking at how many NFL players that college programs produce, or how many recruiting “stars” come out of a high school program, it gets lost that MAYBE 5% of the teams will be making that jump to the next level. What happens to the other 95%?

That’s where a “good program” comes into play. There are so many programs and resources that are at the hands of the student-athletes now to prepare them for when that inevitable final pitch, last basket, or career ending snap is taken.

Most (not all) college athletic departments have put in incentives in place to prepare student-athletes after sports. One example of these is right here in our own back yard.

Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Jared Benko has put a great emphasis on the APEX program.  This is an outreach program that follows a curriculum through the career of the student-athlete that covers everything from financial literacy, teaching about taxes, job interview skills, and much more.

The student-athletes are also involved in community outreach, and sessions of needed skills that nobody thinks about like an emergency car care session to show athletes basic car maintenance, and emergency roadside tips.

This trickles down to the high school level too. Everybody wants to look at schools with a brand-new turf field, or a massive videoboard as good programs, and while that’s great, no discounting it at all, if you’re not invested in the people of your program, you’re just a good team…. if that.

Many times, at the high school level, some of these assets to the student athlete are open to all the students at the school and are spearheaded by coaches.

Take Southeast Bulloch for example. The last few years, Coaches Brent Osborne and Randy Lee have been building up the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) program at SEB that was dormant for over 20 years. Now up to about 65 members (many of them student-athletes for the Jackets), the FBLA hosts events for resume building, job interview skills, and other real-world experiences and skills that prepare the members and student-athletes in ways that many at other programs won’t have.

Don’t get me wrong, the “fancy” facilities don’t mean that a program is focusing more on the looks than the substance.

In addition to Randy Lee being RBs coach and Special teams coordinator for SEB Football, and Brent Osborne stepping away from on-field football coaching and moving to the broadcast booth this year, both Lee and Osborne are the Girls and Boys golf coaches for the Jackets and raised money to buy a state-of-the-art golf simulator for SEB golfers. Both can be done and are done well many places throughout the state.

So, what the heck does all this mean? It is just me going off on a soap box again? (maybe…) Just think next time you or you hear someone say, “man that’s a really good program”. Just think. Is it really a good program? Or is it just a good team?

Brooklet Buzz

By: Colin Lacy news services

The 2023 season welcomes in high hopes for Southeast Bulloch football as they enter year two as a 4A program.

Before reclassification from 3A to 4A prior to the 2022 season, the Jackets spent the previous 6 years (2016-2021) in region 3-3A where they were one of two teams that owned the region with Liberty County.

After the magical 10-2 2021 season where the program recorded their first state playoff victory since the state championship season of 1973, the 2022 campaign was a whole different ballgame in the toughest region of the 4A ranks that saw SEB post a 2-8 record.

That record can be a little misleading, with SEB having an opportunity to sneak into the state playoffs in the final matchup of the season, but a record is what it is. A 2-8 record, however, does light a fire under the Jackets and third year Head Coach Jared Zito.

Year three for Zito, will see his third different starting quarterback taking snaps for the Yellow Jackets. All Region selection, Kristian Clark graduated after the 2021 season and continued his football career at Savannah State.

Gage DiGiovanni then took the reigns in 2022 as a senior and is now headed to South Georgia College on the baseball diamond.

This year, all indications point to one of the key leaders for the Jackets, Will Nelson. Nelson served as the QB-2 last season, as well as anchoring the defense as a safety during his junior year. This year it appears Nelson, a three-sport standout at SEB, will be given the keys to the offense.

Last season, due to injuries and just sheer numbers, the Jackets were forced to play A TON of underclassmen especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Although the Jackets will feel the loss of names like Terry Mikell, Damion Donaldson, and Collin Jackson up front on the D-Line, there is still experience with Michael Dixon, and Jayden Brown.

The back 7, for third year defensive coordinator Jason Anthony, is primed to take a huge step forward because of that underclassman experience.

Colby Smith took the linebacker spot by storm as a freshman racking up 10+ tackles three times even though missing three games with an injury in 2022.

Kyle O’Brien turned into a sophomore beast in the secondary with 5 games of double digit stops including 15 against Wayne County.

These two in addition to rising sophomores like Chase Douglas, Jeremiah Williams are set to have the Jacket defense a huge strength of the squad.

Offensively, there are a lot of questions to be answered of who will step up and fill roles vacated by graduation.

The Jackets will have 6 seniors to replace in the “skill” positions and 3 of the 5 starting offensive linemen, losing Cleve Hart at center, and the McMillian brothers (Quenton and Quintez) on the right side of the line.

Kyon Taylor does return at running back after an injury riddled 2022, while still posting 3 games of 100 yards or more.

Taylor will be likely paired with wide-outs Easton Phillips, and Gage Newsome to reshape the offense.

Finally, not many season previews hit on special teams, but it has been a huge part of the Jackets identity.

Coach Zito has put an emphasis on all parts special teams and shows with the development of kicker Cole Snyder with the help of special teams coordinator Randy Lee.

Snyder, an all-region kicker and punter in 2022, has a big leg that has been a weapon for Southeast Bulloch both flipping the field on punts, and also booming field goals.

So, what’s the outlook for SEB in 2023?

There’s a lot to be excited about in Brooklet. Do we know how many wins that translates to?

No, but being around this program there’s hunger to prove 2-8 is not the norm.