Entering the fourth quarter the Statesboro Blue Devils have had the lead in all three of their games this year. Unfortunately, they have been unable to hold on to those leads the last two weeks and were 1-2 coming into Friday’s contest with Liberty County.
Friday night the Blue Devils built a safe lead, and despite not cashing in on a pair of drives inside the 2-yard line, Statesboro did enough on offense and defense to pull out a 23-6 victory over Liberty County to improve to 2-2 on the season.
“Wins are hard to come by, so you have to enjoy a win,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “We left a couple scores on the table and our offensive penalties were horrendous. Our kids were a little disappointed even though we won because of how sloppy we were. Our defense bailed us out a couple times, but a win is a win.”
Statesboro dominated the time of possession and outgained the Panthers 329-191, limiting Liberty to just 34 yards rushing in the game. The issues the Blue Devils had were costly penalties as they were flagged for nine penalties including back-to-back holding calls after they had gotten down to the Liberty 2-yard line.
“Penalties really killed us on a couple of drives,” said Kaiser. "Their defensive line manhandled our guards at times. We have to continue to get more physical and play a cleaner game.”
The Statesboro offense marched downfield on their opening possession and capped a 9-play scoring drive with a 13-yard touchdown run by Jalin Mikell. Michael Crews extra point was good, and Statesboro took a 7-0 lead.
The defense held the Panthers on the following possession and the Blue Devil offense made it to the Panther 1-yard line. Statesboro elected to go for it on fourth and goal, but Kam Mikell was stopped for a short loss and the Panthers took over.
The Statesboro defense then took things into their own hands after a great tackle at the 4-yard line by Jamie Speight Liberty running back Marques Johnson was tackled in the end zone by Josh Johnson and Creighton Horst for a safety as Statesboro took a 9-0 lead.
The Blue Devils once again had no trouble moving downfield on their next possession, but the drive stalled at the 18-yard line. Michael Crews came in to attempt a 35-yrd field goal but trouble on the snap and hold resulted in a scramble and an interception which the Panthers returned to the 35-yard line.
Liberty connected on a couple of pass plays to extend their drive and finally got into the scoring column on a 22-yard pass from quarterback Chritopher Garrett to Tre Foster. The extra point failed leaving the score 9-6 with 6:43 left in the second quarter,
With time winding down in the second the Blue Devils put together another solid drive. Kam Mikell connected with Tim Taylor on a 21-yard pass down to the 2-yard line, and this time the Blue Devils were able to convert for points. Jalin Mikell scored his second touchdown of the game, and the Blue Devils grabbed a 16-6 halftime lead.
The Statesboro offense opened up the second half as they did at the start of the game pounding the ball down to the 2-yard line. Back-to-back holding calls brought the ball back to the 21-yard line and a fourth and goal pass from the 20-yard line sailed incomplete.
The Statesboro defense once again helped the offense to their only points of the second half. Quincy Jackson recovered a fumble at the Liberty 45-yard line. The Statesboro offense was able to convert that into points as Jalin Mikell scored his third touchdown of the game from 1-yard away and the final points of the night.
“I’m very proud of our kids for pushing through and getting this win,” said Kaiser. “We have an extra week before we have to get ready for region play. Hopefully we can clean some of these things up between now and then. Make no doubt about it though I am proud of our kids for this win though.”
Statesboro improves to 2-2 on the season and have a bye week next Friday before returning to action Oct. 1 against Richmond Hill at Womack Field.