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Statesboro defense answering the call

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    The Statesboro defense was supposed to be the team’s weakness coming into 2007. Don’t look now, but the Blue Devil ‘D’ could slowly be turing into an SHS strength.
    For the third game in a row, the Devils (4-0, 3-0 Region 3-AAAA) will face a wide-open, passing attack when they welcome Greenbrier to Womack Field tonight. The last two weeks against teams that like to chuck it around the field — six points.
    “We feel like, hopefully, we’re ready to take a step forward,” said SHS defensive coordinator Charlie Fales. “We feel like with the young guys we have in position, we’re about to get to the place where they’re understanding what’s happening.”
    If the Blue Devil defense isn’t quite where it needs to be, — and it’s not according to Fales — they’re well on their way.
    Last week in Evans Statesboro allowed 351 total yards at Lakeside. But the Panthers missed three field goals and SHS forced three turnovers to preserve the shutout.
    Statesboro’s secondary, which has just one starting senior, has been a pleasant surprise.
    “We don’t have a lot of experience back there,” said Fales. “Of course we’ve been rotating them in and out, so some have more experience than others. And we’re still not playing necessarily perfect back there, but we are coming up and making plays and it’s been a good test for us to face this type of offense three weeks in a row.”
    Sophomore Jeffrey Spells (eight tackles), junior Roquell Gamble (131⁄2 tackles and two interceptions) and junior Aaron Cone (13 tackles) have all been key to Statesboro’s early success.
    The Wolfpack of GHS (3-2, 2-2) come in led by quarterback Nick Richards. Richards has the ability to put the ball on target 50-60 yards down the field and the recognition to find a secondary receiver when his primary is unavailable.
    “I don’t know if I call (facing another passing attack) a blessing because it’s so much work to prepare for,” said Fales. “But I told the kids as long as (the University) of West Virginia hangs up there near the Top Five or Top Ten, everybody’s going to be doing this type of stuff.”
    Senior linebacker Weldon Watts leads the team in tackles with 34. He picked off two passes last week and ran one in for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the defensive front, Deangelo Tyson has 25 tackles, eight for a loss, and Willie Burden has 221⁄2 stops.
    If the Statesboro defense has another good game tonight, however, don’t expect the SHS coaches to be satisfied.
    “I think we still got a ways to go,” Fales said. “I don’t think we’ve come anywhere near as close to playing our best football. I think our kids realize that. So our goal every week is get better. Hopefully, if we continue to do that, by the end we’ll be right where we want to be.”
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.
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