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Rebels stun Statesboro

Defensive TD gives Effingham upset

   Time and time again, Statesboro looked poised to wake up and snatch away a win on the road at Effingham County. But much like the sloppy field conditions, the Blue Devils seemed to be stuck in the mud all night Friday, eventually losing to Effingham County 7-3 on a defensive touchdown late in the first quarter.
    Statesboro had one last chance to win the game with 2:02 left on the clock.
    After the Blue Devil defense forced a Rebel punt from the Effingham 8-yard line, SHS had the ball at Effingham's 32. A first down pass to Torrance Whitaker down put the ball at the 21 and then Luke Connell hit Whitaker again for five yards down to the 16.
    But the Devils jumped offsides on the next play, Connell missed Diego Prince near the goal line on second down and then Patrick Jenkins was stopped for a seven-yard loss on a toss sweep back to the 28 with 1:40 remaining. Connell's mad scramble and desperation heave on fourth down to Prince fell incomplete and the few Effingham fans that had shown up were jubilant with the upset.
    "(Effingham's) defense made us earn our keep," said SHS coach Steve Pennington. "Bottom line is, we still have to convert when given opportunities. We fell short. Effingham came out on top."
    The ball game was decided in a 4:26 span in the first quarter.
    Statesboro (6-2, 5-2)  drove to Effingham's 15 where it settled for a 32-yard Caleb Brown field goal just inside the left upright. The Devils forced a punt after seven Rebel plays, but were pinned at their own 5-yard line.
    On third-and-seven from the 8, Jenkins took a handoff and tried to make something out of nothing. Instead he lost control of the ball. Effingham's Perry Herbert fell on the ball in the end zone to give ECHS (4-4, 4-3) a 7-3 lead.
    Statesboro held the advantage the rest of the game in terms of yardage, first downs , time of possession and field position, but two turnovers, six costly penalties and the inability to penetrate the Rebels' red zone hurt all night. A mucky and slippery field in the second half didn't help either offense as well.
    "Between the 30's, all night long, we did a good job," said Pennington. "The name of the game is execution. Well fell short and we had to pay the price for it."
    Effingham's Chris Hamilton was held to just 17 yards on 13 carries while the Rebels as a whole were held under 100 yards in total offense. Statesboro's Nic Lanier had 65 yards on 19 carries while Jenkins finished with 60. Connell was 4 of 11 passing for 55 yards.
    With Evans' loss to Ware County and Glynn Academy's win at Greenbrier, Statesboro is now in a five-way tie for first place in Region 3-AAAA.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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