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Devils face rival Rebels
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Statesboro running back SNic Lanier, right, hurdles a blocker and escapes a Richmond Academy defender while taking the ball down to the 6-yard-line in the second quarter last Friday. Lanier and the SHS offense will face a tough defense tonight at Effingham County.
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    Statesboro travels to Effingham this evening in a game pitting two teams alike in more ways than one. Both the Blue Devils (6-1, 5-1 Region 3-AAAA) and the Rebels (3-4, 3-3) run the same offense and defense, wear the blue and white and are fighting for their playoff lives.
    Statesboro, coming off a 42-6 homecoming romp of the Academy of Richmond County, will begin a tough three-game stretch tonight in a game SHS head coach Steve Pennington calls a “matter of wills” and a “mirror image” game.
    “When it comes down to this, Effingham’s still fighting for their lives for a playoff spot — and there’s no certainty for us. It’s not just going to be a matter of will, but a matter of execution,” he said.
    The Rebels have a 3-4 record after a 7-3 year in 2006. They’ve lost three of their region games by under an average of eight points.
    “Couple of bounces here or there we’d have a much better record than what we got right now,” said ECHS coach Jack Webb.
    Effingham has dropped games to South Effingham (fumbles), Ware County (kickoff return), Evans (overtime after trailing by 14) and Glynn Academy (three-point lead with 41⁄2 minutes to go). The struggles have prompted the Rebels to make some changes on their offense.
    “Well we had a couple of injuries in the early part of the season so we had to make some changes,” said Webb. “We moved a sophomore into quarterback and moved our senior quarterback to running back. It’s been working for us pretty good for the last three or four games.”
    Dalton Cooey has taken over behind center while the senior Chris Hamilton has moved to running back. Hamilton is the Rebels’ main offensive weapon behind a big offensive line.
    “Other than facing ourselves, we haven’t faced anubody that basically runs the ball,” said Pennington. “You couple that with a whole different style of preparation and we really don’t know how well we can do against a power team — especially with big linemen.”
    The Rebels also have a tough defense, one that allows just 13 points per game.
    “They’re very active in all facets,” said Pennington. “The defensive front is very quick. The linebackers do a great job of pursuing through the ball. Their DB’s — I’m very impressed — are an aggressive bunch. The challenge we’ll have is to establish the line of scrimmage. If we don’t do that we’ll have to go to something else. We’d like to go to something else because we want to — not because we have to.”
    Imir Davis leads ECHS on the defensive front, while linebacker Daniel Mungin and cornerback Raymond Hines anchor the back seven.
    Statesboro’s Reggie Perkins will be out after breaking his arm last week against ARC. Tight end Sherrod Natson should return to the lineup for SHS.
    Effingham has lost four straight to the Blue Devils, its last win coming in 1998.
    “We’re going to have to play mistake free,” said Webb. “We can’t give them anything. We can’t give them a short field. We can’t have fumbes and miscues. We have to play great on special teams. For us it’s always a measuring stick (against Statesboro) to see where we’re at and to see how much progress we’ve made.”

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.