A play in the regular-season finale at Barnwell sums up perfectly the bond between Silver Bluff stars Gyasi Yeldell and James Jacks.
It was fourth down, and the Warhorses went for it with a running play. But Yeldell, a defensive lineman, and Jacks, a linebacker, were having none of it.
“He (Yeldell) took on two blocks and left me free to make a stop on fourth down,” Jacks said. “It’s unselfish football. We’re out there as a team. We’re not out there for stats, it’s for the win.”
The two friends and teammates are looking for one more win Friday when the Bulldogs take on Batesburg-Leesville in the Class AA Division II championship game. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. at Benedict College in Columbia.
Both players are four-year starters for Silver Bluff, and both play offense and defense. When the Bulldogs are running their Wing-T attack, Yeldell (left tackle) and Jacks (left guard) are usually paving the way for a big run by RJ Stallings or Shaquez Wright.
On defense, Jacks has 83 tackles and Yeldell has five sacks.
Keith Radford, longtime offensive line coach at Silver Bluff, has grown fond of the two since they became starters during their freshmen year in 2010.
“I told them I couldn’t yell at them because they were freshmen and we got to the Wade Hampton game and I told them they weren’t freshmen anymore,” Radford said. “They’d played seven or eight games. I got onto them on the sideline and at first they just looked at me. I was getting loud with them and they responded in the right fashion. They’ve been very steady.”
The two players are at the core of a group who play both ways for the Bulldogs. Stallings, McKenzie Wilson, Myles Corbitt and Avery Corbitt also are listed as two-way starters, and Wright and Jaylen Lawrence also see significant time.
“It’s great being able to play next to the same guy for four years,” Jacks said. “Gyasi brings a lot of energy to the game. It’s great when you need a little something extra and you’ve got somebody playing next to you just as hard.”
“I know he’s always behind me,” he said. “I know I can rely on him.”
Radford, who said “you’re not going to find any better, I can tell you that,” praised them for being smart as well.
“I get on to them at practice and they’ll sit there and look at me and won’t say anything,” he said. “Then I’ll figure out that I’m the one messing up and then I’ll ask them and they’ll say, ‘Coach, you told us to do it this way last week.’ They’re very dependable.”
The team lost in the Lower State finals the past two years, but a 14-7 overtime victory against Bamberg-Ehrhardt has Silver Bluff in position to win its sixth state championship.
“I think it’s our senior leadership,” Yeldell said of this year’s team. “We know what it takes to win the Lower State and it helped us get over the hump.”
The two will suit up in the silver and blue for the final time Friday, and they’re hoping it will lead to a championship.
“It’s a great experience,” Yeldell said. “It’s something I’ll remember for a lifetime.”
Said Jacks: “It’s our last game as Silver Bluff football players. It’s going to be great to go out there one last time. I’ve got nothing to lose now.”