For at least the first half of Friday night's game in Warner Robins, the Statesboro Blue Devils showed head coach Jeff Kaiser what they were capable of as they raced out to an impressive 20-7 halftime lead over homestanding Houston County.
But once again, the trouble for the Devils came in the second half as the offense had trouble moving the ball and the Devil defense wore down as the Bears rallied late to take away a 24-20 victory.
“Once again it was kind of like the second half scenario last week as we couldn’t keep our defense off the field,” said Kaiser. “They made some pretty good halftime adjustments, and we didn’t counter it. We had a couple chances late but just couldn’t get it done.”
Trailing 20-7 late in the third quarter, the Bears decided to go for it on fourth-and-24 from the Blue Devil 29. Quarterback Antwann Hill found a wide-open Lawrence Hill streaking down the middle of the field. Hill hauled it in for the 29-yard score and the Bears took a 21-20 lead.
“The number one rule in the defensive backfield is to not get beat deep,” said Kaiser. “We got beat deep twice. We go back to work Monday to get that corrected and our kids will be fine.”
The Blue Devils started the game with an impressive scoring drive. Quarterback Kam Mikell weaved his way through the Bear defense for a 28-yard pickup to the Houston County 32. Jordan Lovett later broke free for a 14-yard run down to the 8-yard line and then on the next play Mikell hit Payton Wedlow in the end zone for the touchdown. Michael Crews extra point made it 7-0 Statesboro.
The Bears answered as they went on an 11-play drive which was capped off in a wildcat power formation as the Bears handed the ball to 5-11, 230 pound running back Simeon Askew who went up the middle 18-yards for the touchdown and Houston County tied the game at 7-7.
The two teams then traded turnovers. Statesboro’s Caleb Tisby intercepted Bear quarterback - at the 37-yard line and returned it to the Houston County 6-yard line. Two plays later Mikell was picked off in the end zone by Caleb Kenney who returned it to the five.
The Bears advanced to the midfield where they coughed up the ball after a pass completion which was recovered by Statesboro defensive lineman Leslie Black.
The Blue Devils turned that recovery into points as Mikell got outside and showed his speed outracing the Bear defense 53-yards for the Blue Devil touchdown to put Statesboro on top 14-7 early in the second quarter,
The Blue Devil defense held from there and Statesboro got the ball back with just 33 seconds left before halftime. Mikell threw a 54-yard bomb that was hauled in by Jordan Lovett at the Houston County 5-yard line. From there Mikell hit Tim Taylor across the middle for the score. The extra point failed, and Statesboro went into the half on top 20-7.
The Blue Devil offense struggled throughout the second half but still had a chance late to possibly win the game. Facing fourth and three from the Bear 40-yard line with 42 seconds left in the game Mikell scrambled ahead for about a yard but was stopped short and the Bears were able to run out the clock.
The Bears added a little insurance after a 55-yard run by Askew down to the Statesboro two-yard line the Blue Devil defense held forcing an 18-yard field goal by Emanuel Fernandez for the final points of the game.
Statesboro ended the game with 203-yards rushing and 110 yard through the air. Houston County had 282-yards rushing and 114 passing. Mikell led the Blue Devils with 158 yards rushing while the Bears were paced by Askew with 255 yards rushing.
Next up for Statesboro they host Liberty County next Friday at 7:30 p.m.