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Blue Devils going to the semis

Blue Devils going to the semis

Blue Devils going to the semis

Statesboro linebacker Reggie Owens (8...

    MARIETTA — Novocain. Smashmouth. Three yards and a cloud of dust.
    Call Statesboro’s offense whatever you want, but don’t call it done for the season just yet.
    The Blue Devils traded blows with Kell for four tough quarters, but a couple of big plays in the final minutes led Statesboro to a 17-7 win over the Longhorns Friday night at Cobb Energy Field in the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs.
    “I saw a very determined football team out there tonight,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “There was a lot of pressure, but we didn’t wilt, we kept our focus, and we got the big plays when we needed them.”
    With the win, the Devils (11-2) advance to play Chattahoochee (13-0) which defeated Dutchtown Friday. A coin toss will be held today to determine which team will host.
    Clinging to a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, Statesboro finally took the upper hand.
    Big runs by Kell’s Chris Gains (48 yards) and Brian Randolph (44) drove the Longhorns inside the Statesboro 10, but that was where their luck would run out.
    Kell quarterback Austin Petrick (13 for 25, 157 yards) was stopped on 3rd-and-short, and when the Longhorns went for it on 4th-and-inches instead of kicking a game-tying field goal, Petrick was stuffed again.
    “Every game, we’ve had different people step up,” said Pennington. “We got a good effort from everyone tonight, and that defensive stop gave us a lot of momentum and confidence.”
    Forced to fight for minimal gains for much of the night, the Statesboro offense finally exploded in the fourth quarter when Dequan Daniels found no room up the middle but bounced to his right, spun off of a block, and saw nothing but open space. 91 yards later, Daniels crossed the goal line to put the nail in Kell’s coffin.
    “It was a battle all night,” said Daniels. “We just believed in each other and kept pressing. When I saw some room to run, I knew that I had to make a play.”
    The Longhorns were able to race back down the field in the dying minutes, but another fourth-down stop in its own red zone allowed the Devils to run out the clock.
    “That was a very good team we faced tonight,” said Pennington. “I give Kell a lot of credit. They fought hard, but I’m proud that our boys were able to get the job done.”
    After taking over near midfield on its first possession, the Devils looked like they might get off to a quick start.
    Daniels broke off a 25-yard run to put SHS deep in Kell territory, but the Devils couldn’t advance and a botched snap on an attempted 42 yard field goal kept them off of the scoreboard.
    Statesboro struck first after escaping what looked to be a lost drive.
    Faced with 3rd-and-18, the Devils faked an outside toss and handed the ball to Aaron Lester on an inside trap. Lester rumbled 61 yards to the Kell 15, but Statesboro couldn’t get to the end zone and settled for a 30-yard field goal off the foot of Caleb Brown for a 3-0 first quarter lead.
    Two possessions later, the Longhorns were able to capitalize off of pinning the Devils deep in their red zone.
    Alan Rodriguez’s punt stopped just shy of midfield, and after two third-down conversion runs by Randolph, Petrick hit Hunter Marshall (6 receptions, 70 yards) in the end zone for a 32-yard strike to put Kell on top, 7-3.
    Attempting to take back the lead late in the first half, Statesboro came up just shy.
    The Devils advanced inside the Longhorn 30, but Michael Summers was forced to commit offensive pass interference on a long toss that seemed destined to be intercepted and Statesboro was knocked out of scoring range.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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