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Devils come up just short against Houston County
SHS Football
Houston County's Simeon Askew, center, celebrates in front of stunned Statesboro High defenders Gabe Idowu, bottom right, and Quincy Jackson after scoring a game-clinching touchdown run in the fourth quarter on Friday, Sept. 25, at Womack Field. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

Coaches always say that in a close game things will come down to special teams. Friday night Houston County struggled on offense, and gave up three touchdowns on defense. The only area they won was special teams, where they easily outplayed the Blue Devils, as they walked away from Womack Field with a 23-18 victory.

The Statesboro offense scored three times, and outgained Houston County 307-270. The Bears came up with a pivotal blocked field goal that they returned for a touchdown just before the half. Houston County also got three field goals from Luke Rigby, which proved to be the difference in the game.

“I’m so proud of the effort our kids showed out here tonight,” said Statesboro coach David NeSmith. “They never gave up, and played hard against a pretty good football team. We are going to be a good team too, but we just need to keep working, and keep grinding and come back Monday and get ready to go to work.”

The Blue Devils were down 16-6 but fought back in the fourth quarter to score twice. Quarterback Ames Rackleff hit Jaylin Michael for a 47-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 16-12 with 5:45 left in the game.

The  Bears were able to counter with their only offensive touchdown of the game. Out of the wildcat formation Simeon Askew fought his way 20-yards into the end zone to extend the lead to 23-12. 

Statesboro scored again with 36 seconds left in the game as Rackleff hit O’Darrius Lipsey with a 17-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed to leave the score at 23-18.

It then looked like the Blue Devils may have been able to pull off a miracle as Cody Parker made a nice on-side kick that looked as though it may have gotten tipped by a Bear player. Ford Wildes fell on the ball on the 49-yard line, but after discussing the play the refs ruled the ball was not tipped. Illegal touching resulted in the Bears being able to run out the clock and hand the Blue Devils another tough loss.

Statesboro opened the scoring in the first quarter as Rackleff dropped back to pass, and took off up the field for a 57-yard touchdown. The extra point hit off the goalpost and was no good, for a 6-0 Statesboro lead. 

The Bears mounted a drive, but the Blue Devil defense held them to a 30-yard Rigby field goal to cut the lead to 6-3. 

The game remained 6-3 until late in the second quarter. Statesboro would get down to the 20-yard line, but their drive stalled, and with 26 seconds left until halftime NeSmith sent out the field goal unit. Parker’s kick was blocked by an untouched defender, Caleb Coney scooped the ball up and took it all the way in for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead at the half.

“That play really swung things,” said NeSmith. Instead of us being up 9-3 they were up 10-6 and gained a lot of momentum.”

Rigby added a pair of field goals in the third quarter. One of the field goals came after Statesboro fumbled on a punt, and gave Houston County the ball at the 15-yard line. The Statesboro defense once again held, but Rigby extended the lead to 16-6.

“Our defense played their butts off again tonight,” said NeSmith. “We had a bunch of kids that had to grow up in a hurry tonight.”

The Blue Devils were missing three starting offensive lineman once again due to contact tracing and quarantine which is something NeSmith understands may happen throughout the year.

“If we ever get our whole team out here on the field I feel like we could see something special,” said NeSmith. “The great thing about tonight was this game has no bearing on where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Statesboro falls to 0-2 while Houston County improves to 3-1. Up next Statesboro hosts Appling County next Friday.