Southeast Bulloch won their region opener Wednesday night 34-7 over Islands, but head coach Jared Zito said the best call he made all week came on Monday when he talked the Sharks into moving their game up to Wednesday night. Had they tried to play Thursday or Friday the game would have been postponed as word came out Wednesday afternoon that Bulloch County schools would be closed Thursday and Friday.
“It was so important for us to get this game in tonight,” said Zito. “Our prep time was cut down a little, but had we not played tonight we may have had to have played this game Monday and then had two games in one week. Instead, we now have a little extra time to get ready for our game next Friday at New Hampstead.”
The Jackets (2-4, 1-0) got a balanced offensive attack led by quarterback Gage DiGiovanni who threw for over 100 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another. Collin Jackson added a touchdown reception and a rushing score and the Jacket defense held Islands to seven points which was their lowest total of the season.
“It was really a great game defensively as we went back to some base stuff,” said Zito. “Our guys stopped thinking so much and played faster. I thought we came out pretty strong on offense. I would have liked to have scored a few more touchdowns and not tried a couple field goals. I thought we had a big kickoff return to start the second half and then our offense kind of sputtered. I did like our final drive of the game and I think that is something to build on.”
Southeast Bulloch started the scoring in the first quarter as they marched downfield behind a few DiGiovanni passes and a few nice runs, and capped the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown keeper from DiGiovanni for a 7-0 lead. The Sharks answered quickly as quarterback Amaree Bedgood hit Ja’Mari Sanders with a screen pass, and he went 53-yards all the way to the Yellow Jacket 5-yard line. Sanders scored two plays later from the 3-yard line tying the game at 7-7.
From there it was all Yellow Jackets. DiGiovanni hit Collin Smith with a 22-yard pass to the Islands 20-yard line. Two plays later A.J. Johnson ran through a big hole and scored from 14-yards away. The extra point failed and the Jackets took a 13-7 lead.
That scored held up into the second quarter where DiGiovanni hit Collin Jackson across the middle, and Jackson went 52-yards for the touchdown. The Jackets elected to go for the 2-point conversion and Jackson plowed his way into the end zone to extend the lead to 21-7. Damion Donaldson helped that score stand up as he came through with his fourth sack in the first half as the Islands offense was unable to get past mid-field the rest of the half.
The Jacket special teams came through with a big play to start the third quarter as freshman Jabarri Nunnally fielded the kickoff at his own 12-yard line where he got a few nice blocks, and then streaked down the sidelines 78-yards for the score. The extra point was blocked as the Jackets led 27-7.
Neither team got much going on offense for the rest of the third quarter and into the fourth. The Jackets were able to get down inside the Sharks 10-yard line but were unable to punch it in. Cole Snyder had just missed wide right from 42-yards in the first half, missed just wide right from 26-yards leaving the score 27-7. The Jackets finally put a sustained drive together late in the fourth and capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Collin Jackson for the final score of the game.
Zito was happy for the victory Wednesday but even more so because it was their region opener.
“It was so important to start out 1-0 in the region,” said Zito. “We know this is such a tough region and now we have a little extra time to prepare for Islands. I think our team played well tonight and the guys have a little confidence heading into next week which we really needed.”
Southeast Bulloch will travel to New Hampstead Oct. 7 for a 7:30 kickoff.