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Devils looking for emotional offensive spark

    It’s no secret the Statesboro offense has struggled at times this year.
    Whether it’s been turnovers, penalties, missed assignments or mental lapses, the Blue Devils have failed to score offensively in its two losses this year. Those losses have put SHS in a desperate position with two weeks left in the season. It’s the first time the Devils have lost two of three since 1998.
    “We’re not going to panic,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “It would be easy to sit here and say, ‘We haven’t scored points, therefore let’s change our system’. That’s not the case. We must be patient, and we are working on some of these things diligently as far as the mental aspect is concerned.”
    Last week at Effingham County the Blue Devils (6-2, 5-2 Region 3-AAAA) lost 7-3 on a fumble recovery in their own end zone. Statesboro never allowed ECHS a scoring opportunity thereafter but never got close itself.
    On Oct. 12 in a 10-7 loss at Evans, the Devils were nursing a 7-3 lead late in the fourth quarter and driving deep in Knights territory. Another fumble gave EHS the ball back, and the then-undefeated Knights drove the field for the go-ahead score.
    In both losses, Statesboro’s offense was effective, but not productive, eating up clock and chewing up yardage. The scoreboard, however, never changed.
    “When we don’t play with a lot of emotion, (and) we’re average on offense,” said offensive coordinator Kenny Tucker. “We’ve got to get our guys to play with some emotion and more emotion than they’ve been playing with.”
    Emotion may be a little bit harder to come by for the Devils, who run the ball, run the ball and then run the ball some more. While the athletes on the offensive side of the ball have big-play capability, the SHS offense is not designed to hit home runs.
    “We’ve got to do something to get them where they understand that every time we go out we need to have first downs and touchdowns as our goal,” said Tucker. “If we can get to that level where we’re playing with emotion, I think we’ll see some better results.”
    The Blue Devils are totaling just over 300 yards of offense per game, averaging 25 points a contest and are close to a dozen first downs every Friday night. Why then, has the offense disappeared in two random games this season?
    “It’s twofold,” said Pennington. “People are playing us a lot better. Everybody we’ve played — they’re going to give us their ‘A’-game. But within the scheme of what we do, we have just had some breakdown in some executions and some of the fundamentals — the basics. It’s not as much as it’s been physical as it’s been mental.”
    The Blue Devils have turned the ball over 15 times and have a -1 turnover margin.
    “Turnovers have killed us,” said Tucker. “It’s not for lack of work, we work on it all the time, and we always have. This year we’re just not concentrating and hanging on to that football like we’ve got to.”
    Despite moans and groans in the stands for more passes or a variety in play calling, Statesboro is in no way shape or form going away from what got them to where they are today.
    Quarterback Luke Connell is more than capable of hitting playmakers Diego Prince and Torrance Whitaker downfield, and the return of Sherrod Natson at split end last week still makes SHS a dangerous offensive club down the field. Pennington and Tucker reiterated, however, that Statesboro “throws the ball when they want to, not because they have to.”
    Despite Statesboro’s offense disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle on two separate occasions this season, the Blue Devils are still playing for a region championship with two games to go. They’ll travel to Brunswick on Friday.
    “We’re just a fine line away from being a well-oiled machine in doing what we’re capable of doing,” Pennington added. “We know we can move the ball. We’ve just got to get to the point where we have total focus and concentration every single play.”

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