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Thursday night lights; Blue Devils stifle visiting Liberty

Thursday night lights; Blue Devils stifle visiting Liberty

Thursday night lights; Blue Devils stifle visiting Liberty

Statesboro quarterback Colin Chance r...


    Statesboro’s path to a possible third straight region title got off on the right foot Thursday night as the Blue Devils notched a 19-0 victory over Liberty County in their first sub-region game of the season.
    For the third consecutive game, it was the defense of the Blue Devils (6-1, 1-0 Region 3-AAAA) that set the tone. Liberty County (5-2, 0-1) came into the game averaging 31.6 points per game, but the Devils allowed just 90 yards in notching their second shut out in the last three games.
    “Overall, it was a great effort by our defense,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We were really able to shut (Liberty) down. And that stems from great preparation. Our scout team deserves a lot of credit for getting the defense physically and mentally prepared.”
    The Liberty defense also performed well, but Statesboro was able to do just enough. Sherrodric Rawls and Daniel Murphy managed a pair of hard-earned touchdowns to stake the Devils to a lead and quarterback Colin Chance put the game out of reach with another rushing touchdown late in the game.
    Statesboro managed just 176 yards of total offense itself, but that was partially due to the short field that four Liberty County turnovers provided. All three of the Devils’ touchdown drives started in Panther territory.
    “To force those turnovers and not turn the ball over ourselves was huge,” said Pennington. “We knew that scoring points would be tough, so getting those short fields was a big help.”
    For the most part, the first half was a defensive struggle with very few scoring opportunities.
    After forcing a quick possession out of Statesboro on the game’s first drive, Liberty was able to cross midfield, but quarterback JJ Grant fumbled the ball away on the SHS 44.
    The Devils shot themselves in the foot with a pair of holding penalties on the ensuing drive and moved backwards before punting back to Liberty..
    Statesboro’s defense held with another three-and-out, then received a big break. Forced to punt, Liberty’s Corey Lazenby felt the heat of the Statesboro rush. Lazenby managed to get his kick off, but popped it nearly straight up for a net punt of one yard, giving the Devils possession at the Panthers’ 45.
    After gaining a first down, Quan Daniels broke off a run to the Liberty 10. A penalty on the Panthers pushed the ball to the 5 and Rawls took the next two carries, bursting through for a 4 yard touchdown run on his second attempt.
    George Hill missed the extra point to keep the SHS lead at 6-0.
    With just 54 yards of offense in the first half, the Panthers never seriously threatened getting on the scoreboard.
    Taking possession with just over six minutes to play in the first half, Statesboro penetrated as far as the Liberty 26, but Hill couldn’t connect on a 38 yard field goal attempt just before halftime.
    Statesboro’s defense went right back to work in the second half, kicking the ball off to Liberty, but quickly forcing a three-and-out.
    On the Panthers’ second possession of the half, Tim Key intercepted J.J. Grant on the Liberty County 34. The Panthers’ defense nearly held, but Chance scrambled for a first down and Murphy plowed in from a yard out two plays later to make it 13-0.
    Liberty eventually drove as far as the SHS 24, but the Panthers opened the fourth quarter with a halfback pass that was picked off by Ben Roberts and they didn’t cross midfield again.
    Chance capped off the scoring with a 7 yard scamper with just over two minutes to play.

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

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