Wayne County Yellow Jackets

Old Familiar Sting

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Wayne County High has taken a rapid fall from some lofty heights. They’re hoping the rebound will be just as quick.

Just four short years ago, the Yellow Jackets of coach Ken Cribb went undefeated in the regular season. It would be their second straight region championship, and the second out of four straight playoff appearances.

The last postseason berth in that streak was a less than inspiring COVID-year campaign that saw the team go 3-8 and back into the playoffs, losing a close game in the first round to the Jones County Greyhounds.

Then, in 2021, the bottom fell out. The team went 0-9 on the season – their first winless season since 1923. Wayne suffered shutout losses to Ware, Coffee, and Pierce.

Coach Cribb would go on to resign, wrapping up a five-year stint that saw the team post a 31-23 record.

Enter a new administration with solid regional bonafides in the form of Jaybo Shaw.

Coach Shaw, a top 10 all-time QB at Georgia Southern, comes to Jesup after a stellar stint at Rabun County.

In three seasons at the helm of the Wildcats, Coach Shaw notched an impressive 35-5 record and oversaw the development of the much-anticipated UGA signal caller, Gunner Stockton.

In multiple interviews earlier in the year, Coach Shaw said all the right things about the Yellow Jackets program.

Wayne County supports its football team, last year was tough but a learning experience for the players, the 2022 schedule looks tough but exciting.

The season will indeed be an exciting one, and although it will be tough to put up the kind of win/loss records that coach Shaw is used to, nothing is out of the question when it comes to southeast Georgia high school football.

Here’s how we see the season unfolding for the new coach:

WEEK 1 – BRADWELL INSTITUTE – In a matchup of two winless teams from the previous year, it’s not out of the question for the team to be amped up to show their new coach what they’ve got. We’ll give the edge to the Yellow Jackets, 28-14.

WEEK 2 – BROOKS COUNTY – They may be in a lower division, but they were state champs in that division. In a close one on the road, the Trojans even things up on the early season, Yellow Jackets fall 21-17.

WEEK 3 – APPLING COUNTY – The Pirates let the Jackets have it last year, walloping them to the tune of 41-7. It should be a little less lopsided this year, but not enough for the win. Wayne drops to 1-2, 35-24.

WEEK 4 – STATESBORO – The Former GSU Eagle will have his squad ready for this trip to the ‘Boro. Put another W on the scoreboard for Coach Shaw in Bulloch County, 31-10.

WEEK 5 – JENKINS HIGH – The Warriors surprised many with a playoff berth last season. The Jackets won’t be looking past them to their region schedule. Another win for Wayne in a low scoring affair, 17-10.

WEEK 6 – BURKE COUNTY – In a battle of Wayne vs. Waynesboro, the Bears will be the far more formidable force. Coach Shaw will have his team hitting its stride, but the team that many are expecting to challenge Benedictine for the region crown will just be too much. Burke over Wayne, 41-10.

WEEK 7 – ISLANDS – The Sharks will be the ones getting bitten this time around. Yellow Jackets go to .500 in the region in their first lopsided win, 49-6.

WEEK 8 – NEW HAMPSTEAD – Both teams struggle, and the Phoenix unfortunately rises. Yellow Jackets fall in overtime, 24-21.

WEEK 9 – BENEDICTINE – The defending State Champions look to run it back for another crown. They won’t be for long, but the Yellow Jackets will be just a blip on their radar this year. Cadets win big, 51-12.

WEEK 10 – SE BULLOCH – The Yellow Jackets vs. the Yellowjackets. Wayne County fights hard to salvage a .500 season and to make the playoffs. They manage the upset, 27-24.

FINAL RECORD FOR THE YEAR: 5-5 & a playoff berth.

Returning Sting?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Wayne had a tough season in 2020 finishing with a 3-8 record. The Yellow Jackets ended up with the #4 seed in Region 1-AAAAA and pushed Jones County, a region champion, to the limit before falling 27-25 in the first round of the playoffs. Jones County made it to the final four last year.

One opposing coach this fall had this to say about Wayne “They won’t be decimated by injuries this year like last year and they are well coached. Wayne always has good talent”.

Another area coach had this to say “We have seen them over the summer and they have good skill people and they are big and physical like you always expect Wayne County to be”.

Ken Cribb enters his 5th season as head coach of Wayne County. The Yellow jackets have a 31-14 record during that time with a couple of region championships in 2017 and 2018.

Reclassification in 2020 put Wayne in a brutal AAAAA region that includes Coffee County, Ware County, Warner Robins, and Veterans High School.

Coffee, Ware and Warner Robins are three of the top AAAAA teams in the State and all 3 could be in the top 5 of the preseason rankings.

Improvement in 2021 has to begin on the defensive side of the ball where Wayne gave up 25 points per game last year and over 40 per game in two of their four region contests. If the defense can improve then the win totals will go up.

2021 Schedule/My Predictions:

8/21 @ Statesboro: The game will be played at Georgia Southern University as part of the Erk Russell Classic, I believe. Wayne has handled Statesboro over the past few years and will do so again in 2021. Jackets win a tight one.

8/27 vs Pierce: A defending state champion comes to Jaycee Stadium and gets beat by the home team. Do the power brokers in Jesup take notice or are they secretly flying in Nick Saban to resurrect the program? Jackets go to 2-0.

9/3 vs Richmond Hill: Wayne has beaten Richmond Hill recently and came close to doing so last year. Wayne goes to 3-0 with a big home win over the 7A playing in 6A Wildcats.

9/10 @ South Effingham: Jackets roll over the Mustangs. Wayne goes to 4-0.

9/16 @ Benedictine: Give me Benedictine at home in this one. Folks who know High School football in these parts understand why. Jackets drop to 4-1.

9/24 @ Appling: Rivalry game in Baxley. Appling is breaking in a new head coach and this one could go either way. Give me the Jackets in a tight one. Wayne goes to 5-1.

10/8 vs Veterans: Jackets at home should win this one. Wayne goes to 6-1 and clinches a playoff berth.

10/15 vs. Coffee: Coffee is coming off a huge home game with Ware the week before. Could they overlook the Jackets? I’m putting Coffee on upset alert, but they get it done over Wayne. Wayne serves notice around the state that they will not be an easy out come playoff time. Jackets drop to 6-2.

10/22 @ Warner Robins: Jackets are not ready for prime time on the road here. Drop to 6-3

11/5 @ Ware County: Ware is elite. Wayne finds that out in Memorial Stadium in Waycross. Jackets drop to 6-4 and enter the playoffs as a dangerous #4 seed from region 1-AAAAA.

Interesting Wayne County football facts. Wayne has 2 State Titles in 1954 and 1959.

John Donaldson is viewed as the best coach in Wayne County history with two state titles and five region titles in 18 seasons.

When Ken Cribb won back-to-back region titles in 2017 and 2018 the last Wayne County coach to accomplish that feat was Donaldson in 1976.

From 2017-19 Ken Cribb won 28 games. That is the best three year run in Wayne County football history. Wayne County plays in the best AAAAA region in the state of Georgia. Put that in perspective.