By: Colin Lacy
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com 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.