When Georgia Southern faces off against Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl there will a Bryan County presence.
Among players on the Eagles roster will be former Bryan County High School running back Terron Dixon II and Britton Williams who was a standout kicker and soccer player for Richmond Hill.
Dixon, who graduated this month, has played the last two years as a walk-on running back after having an outstanding freshman season at Lagrange College.
The former Redskin was a second-team All-USA Conference at Lagrange after running for 772 yards in eight games. He set school records for yards in a game with 306 against Methodist and four touchdowns against Greensboro. When Covid shut down the program he transferred to Georgia Southern.
Williams was redshirted this season after starting all 12 games last year as a true freshman kickoff specialist and kicker. In addition to his kickoff duties he also made all four of his field goal attempts.
On the opposite of the field will be former Wildcats assistant coach Brandon Bailey who is the Bulls’ first-year defensive coordinator. Bailey coached linebackers and was the co-defensive coordinator with Tony LeZotte at Richmond Hill in 2017.
Bailey’s rise in the coaching ranks has been meteoric in that only five years ago he was a high school assistant coach and is now the defensive coordinator at a Group of Five school. He graduated from Georgia Southern in 2016.
Wildcats coach Matt LeZotte, then in his third year, recognized right away Bailey, who did not play football at Georgia Southern, was not your ordinary wet-behind-the-ears assistant coach.
Playing football in college, incidentally, is not a prerequisite for becoming a successful coach. Paul Johnson, second only to Erk Russell among Eagles coaches, did not play football in college and he somehow managed to do okay at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.
“Brandon brought valuable insight to us,” LeZotte said. “He helped us change the culture, he made us think outside the box. He was an amazing asset to us.”
That 2017 Wildcats team finished the regular season 7-2 and lost to eventual state champion Lee County, 29-21, in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
In terms of talent on both sides of the ball that team may rank as LeZotte’s best in his eight years, especially from an offensive balance standpoint.
Quarterback Kasey Green threw for 1,912 yards and 19 touchdowns, Maurice Smith had 1,119 yards rushing and Sam James, who recently declared for the NFL draft after playing four years at West Virginia, caught 53 passes for 905 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The defense, led by linebacker Nico Decosta’s 110 tackles, was solid. Fellow lineackers Will Huffstutler and Ruii Hernandez had 90 and 76 tackles, respectively.
Huffstutler, Antuan Goulbourne and Lance Miracle had three sacks each.
“He had a way of problem solving and creativity about him,” LeZotte said of Bailey who was not made available for an interview by Buffalo. “We all knew he was special. Everyone enjoyed being around him.
“He is a phenomenal person. He is a man of faith and that, along with his respect for others, defines him. He always talked about the three Fs: faith, family and football. That was powerful to be that wise and mature at such a young age.”
Bailey came to the Wildcats in April having just been hired as a teacher and worked, LeZotte said, all spring and summer without drawing a paycheck.
“The guy showed up on our door step in and worked until September before he got paid,” LeZotte said. “Not many people would put in that kind of time while not getting paid. He knew what it took to get the job done.
“He had an accelerated path and his career has been exciting to follow. We stay in touch and he has become a personal friend and a friend of the program.”
Bailey left Richmond Hill to go to Tulane where he worked as a graduate assistant for Willie Fritz who had coached at Georgia Southern while he was in school.
After a year with the Green Wave the next stop was Arkansas-Monticello for a year and then on to Texas A&M for three seasons before landing at Buffalo this season.