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Heartbreak for Devils

Missed field goal leaves SHS behind Wayne Co.

Heartbreak for Devils

Heartbreak for Devils

Statesboro High's Daniel Murphy, top,...

    For the second consecutive season, Statesboro went from a potential Region 3-AAAA championship game appearance to a must-win play-in game in the span of one night.

Fighting a tough Wayne County team – and Mother Nature – throughout the evening, Statesboro put itself in a position to win, but George Hill’s 44-yard field goal attempt with 21 seconds remaining hooked to the left, and the Yellow Jackets claimed a 7-6 victory Friday night at Womack Field.

“It might seem like it all came down to the kick, but it was more than that,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “There were plenty of opportunities that we just couldn’t take advantage of. These were two tough, physical teams going at it tonight. We just came up a little bit short.”

Playing the first three quarters through a steady – and sometimes pouring – rain, it looked as though both offenses might still put up good numbers.

Statesboro drove 67 yards on just eight plays on its first drive. Colin Chance found Zach Grant on a quick option pitch and Grant raced 21 yards to put the Blue Devils (8-1, 2-1) on the board. Ultimately, the difference in the game came when Lavonte Larry blocked Hill’s extra point.

The rest of the scoring came on the ensuing possession for the Yellow Jackets (8-1, 3-0).

Wayne County quarterback Malique Jackson broke off a 16-yard run to get into SHS territory before Anfernee Jordan (6 carries, 81 yards) pounded the Jackets farther downfield. The Devil defense forced a fourth-and-11 from the 27, but Jackson found Stephen Thomas on a deep hitch. Thomas shook off a tackle at the 10 and jogged in for the score, then Hux Riddle made it 7-6 with his extra point.

That was far from the end of the scoring opportunities.

Wayne County drove into the SHS red zone twice more in the first half, but Statesboro came up with interceptions in its own end zone – by Anthony Gore and Jacob Schofill – on both occasions.

“Our defense played tough and made some big plays,” Pennington said. “They also spent a lot of time on the field. That hurts when you’re trying to get into a rhythm.”

Statesboro had its share of big plays, but nine penalties totaling 60 yards put an end to several promising drives.

On their last chance, the Devils nearly pulled off a marathon drive to steal the win.

After a bad snap on an attempted field goal by the Jackets, Statesboro took over from its own 24 with 9:41 remaining in the game.

Chance and Juhwan Osborne twice connected on fourth-down passes to keep the game alive, and the Devils racked up five first downs on a 20-play march. Osborne racked up a season-high five catches filling in as the first receiving option for Statesboro as Joe Corless and his 504 receiving yards on the season did not play due to a sprained ankle suffered earlier in the week during practice.

Statesboro pressed inside the Wayne County 30 with 1:30 to play, but the Devils couldn’t gain any more yardage before attempting the game-winning field goal.

On the kick, it appeared that the wet ball came out low on the snap. Chance was able to corral the ball, but the hitch in timing caused Hill to kick a low line drive that couldn’t hold its line.

“I thought it was a victory for us to be able to drive down the field and pick up two crucial fourth downs,” Pennington said. “Under the circumstances, all you can ask for is a chance to kick to win the game. We got that, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

The playoffs now start a week early for Statesboro.

Despite the Devils’ 8-1 mark, only the winner of their next game at Glenn Hills next week will earn a spot in the Class AAAA state playoffs. If Statesboro does advance, it will enter the postseason as a No. 3 seed and will begin on the road against the No. 2 seed out of Region 1-AAAA.

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

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