HINESVILLE — The Statesboro High coaching staff have wondered how the team would look at full strength. Friday night in Hinesville they got their answer as an almost full roster helped the Blue Devils knock off Liberty County 33-13 to notch their first victory of the season,
The game marked the return of plenty of Blue Devil players, but perhaps the biggest addition was head coach Jeff Kaiser who returned for his first game of the season. Kaiser has been out since Sept. 3rd with COVID-19. Kaiser started the game in the coaching box, but was quickly on the sidelines early in the first quarter.
“I was planning to stay in the box, but I felt like our team needed a little fire,” said Kaiser. “I didn’t like the body language we were showing, and we had some dumb penalties. I heard someone say it’s not about you, and this isn’t about me. This football team is my responsibility though, and I will do whatever I want to or need to make sure I put these kids in the best position to be successful.”
Kaiser’s presence on the field did indeed light a spark, and the Blue Devils put the first points of the game on the board. A high snap by Liberty on a punt was recovered by the Blue Devils James Speight at the Panther 11-yard line. A few plays later Jaylin Mikell fought his way into the end zone for a 7-yard score. The extra point failed and Statesboro led 6-0.
The Panthers wasted no time responding as they drove 65 yards and capped the scoring with an 11-yard pass from quarterback Chris Dennis to Tre Foster. The extra point was good and Liberty grabbed a 7-6 lead.
That score held into the second quarter when the Blue Devil offense put together another nice drive. Jordan Lovett knifed his way through the Panther defense for a 27-yard pickup to the Liberty 15. The scoring drive was capped as quarterback Ames Rackleff busted in from 1-yard out. The Blue Devils elected to go for two and Rackleff hit Mikell for the conversion for a 14-7 Blue Devil lead.
The Blue Devil defense helped set up the offense on their next possession. Dake Williams and Speight hit Dennis in the backfield, he coughed up the ball and Williams recovered on the 26-yard line. On the very next play Rackleff lofted a pass up for James Flagg, who hauled it in and went in for the score. The extra point failed and Statesboro took a 20-7 halftime lead.
“I really thought our quarterback did a great job out there tonight,” said Kaiser. “We ran the ball well, but we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties.”
Rackelff continued his solid play in the second half, as he would take off up the middle 26-yards for the first score of the second half. The 2-point conversion failed, and the lead was extended to 26-7.
It looked like that would be the final points of the game, as coach Kaiser elected to run the ball, and try to eat up the clock. The Panthers were able to break into the second half scoring column though as Dennis hit Meon Mcleod with a lateral pass at the Blue Devil 33, that he would take to the house for the touchdown, cutting the lead to 26-13. The Blue Devils responded on their first offensive play from scrimmage. Mikell took the handoff and cut across the field 58-yards into the end zone. The extra point was good, and the Blue Devils went on for the 33-13 victory.
“We had a few guys who only practiced in shorts yesterday and haven’t played in a while,” said Kaiser. “I felt like we were pretty rusty and need to get some things straight this week. It was huge for morale to come here and pick up a win, but next week we are playing the 4th ranked team in Class 6-A so we need to get better quickly.
Statesboro hosts Richmond Hill next Friday at 7:30 at Womack Field.