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Devils dazzle in season opener
SHS Football
Statesboro High running back Jalen Mikell pulls away from everyone for a long touchdown run up the middle in the first quarter against Wayne County during the final game of the Erk Russell Classic at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, Aug.21.

While it may have been far from an historic victory, quite a few streaks came to a close early Sunday morning as the Statesboro Blue Devils knocked off Wayne County 21-7 in the annual Erk Russell Classic. 

The Blue Devils won in Paulson Stadium for the first time since their state championship in 2005. It was also the first ever Erk Russell Classic win for Statesboro High. In addition, the Blue Devils beat Wayne County for the first time since 2009 snapping an 8-game losing streak.

“I am so dang proud of this football team and the coaching staff,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “There are some knuckleheads in that group, but we sure played hard tonight. Caleb Tisby made a few big plays for us, and we had a few guys make some individual plays, but I was really proud of the effort as a team. I love these kids and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Tied at 7-all in the second half Statesboro pulled ahead on a perfect 36-yard pass from quarterback Kam Mikell to Tim Taylor for a 13-7 lead. The ensuing extra point snap was bad, but Blue Devil holder Avery Newton was able to scramble and find Willie Ballard in the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a 15-7 Statesboro lead.

Junior defensive back Caleb Tisby came through with the next two big plays for the Blue Devils. On third and long Weatherspoon scrambled and attempted a pass downfield, but Tisby jumped in front of the receiver for the interception and was able to get the ball ahead to the Jacket 44-yard line.

The Blue Devils got down to the 20-yar line after a Jaylin Mikell run, but the drive stalled and a bad snap and hold on a field goal attempt left the score 15-7.

In the fourth Tisby was able to come up with the play to seal the Blue Devil victory. Pinned at their own 32-yard line and forced to punt Tisby was able to break through the line to block the punt. He then scooped up the bouncing ball and went in for the touchdown.

“I noticed on the play before they weren’t really blocking too well,” said Tisby. “I knew if I took off, I could make it through and I blocked it pretty easily. The ball bounced right into my hands, and I took it in. It was an exciting feeling knowing that kind of put it away.”

Statesboro started the scoring as in the first quarter as Jaylin Mikell burst free up the middle and scored on a 61-yard touchdown. He finished the night with 109 yards rushing. Michael Crews extra point made it 7-0.

The Yellow Jackets responded on their next series as quarterback Tommy Weatherspoon hit  Terrione Graves in the flat and Graves went 79-yards for the score to tie the game at 7-all.

While the Blue Devils made some big plays throughout the night Kaiser felt the difference in the game was the depth of the Blue Devil defense paying dividends.

“We did a few things wrong and bent a little more than I would have likes,” said Kaiser. The big thing we are doing that is making a difference is we are playing 25 different kids on defense during the game and they played hard the entire 48 minutes.”

Another big difference from the Blue Devil’s scrimmage game last week against Metter was the fact that Statesboro did not turn the football over the entire game.

“Our offensive line as a unit played a lot better than the scrimmage game,” said Kaiser. “I can’t say enough about our two receivers Tim Taylor and Willie Ballard . Most people only watch the receivers when they catch the ball, but these guys are very physical and are hitting on every play. Defensive backs don’t want any part of them as physical as they play.”

“I can’t say enough about the growth by Kam Mikell at quarterback from the scrimmage to the Wayne County game,” said Kaiser. “His decision making was much improved. He ran the ball well against Metter but Wayne took that away from him and he made some plays through the air. By no means have we arrived, but we have a lot of positive things to build on.”

Statesboro is off this Friday and return to action Sept. 3 at Womack field as they host Swainsboro.