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Devils start slow, then blast Screven
Statesboro starts 2007 with 34-13 victory
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Statesboro High's Jamie Malone scoops up a blocked Screven County punt and scores a touchdown in the second quarter of Friday's season opener in Sylvania. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    SYLVANIA — For a moment — just a moment — it looked as though Screven County was going to shock its visitors from Statesboro. But after the Gamecocks took a quick 6-0 lead, the No. 7 ranked team in Class AAAA Statesboro scored 34 straight points to run away from SCHS 34-13.
    "Answering that tremendous play by their quarterback was real big," said SHS coach Steve Pennington. "We couldn't afford to give Screven County momentum in their own backyard.    
    That "tremendous play by their quarterback" was a 73-yard scamper by MJ Johnson 3:36 into the first quarter. Johnson, from his own 27, took an option keeper to his left, snuck between the SHS defense and then exploded into the secondary to bring the capacity Kelly Memorial Stadium crowd to its feet and give SC a 6-0 lead.
    It may have been the wake-up call SHS (1-0) needed.
    The Devils took the next possession and drove seven plays for 62 yards over 2:48 to take a 7-6 lead. Junior Nic Lanier capped the drive with a three-yard plunge up the middle to give the blue-and-white a lead they would never relinquish.
    "They did a good job blocking us and we didn't get off our blocks," said Screven coach Pat Collins. "Credit them. They're very patient, they kept doing what they do and we weren't able to stop it."
    Statesboro increased its lead after an SCHS three-and-out. On the first play of the second quarter, SHS faced a fourth-and-five from Screven's 32. Quarterback Luke Connell came to the line of scrimmage and saw something he liked.
    "We saw that the cornerback wasn't adjusting — he didn't even see him out there," said Connell. "We connected by signs and we knew what to do."
    Connell took a quick drop and winged the ball to senior Torrance Whitaker on the left flank, giving Whitaker the space to run 32 yards for a 13-6 margin.
    The play may have been the product of dysfunctional headsets on the visitor sideline, forcing both teams to discard the electronic equipment.
    Things didn't get any better for SCHS on the next possession. From its own 21, Screven' elected to punt. But kicker Donnie Bostwick couldn't handle the wet ball on the snap, and when he tried to get off the punt, the ball found the outstretched hands of Leo Polk. Jamie Malone picked up the loose ball and ran it in from about 10 yards out to make the score 20-7.
    From there, it was the Patrick Jenkins show.
    The former Screven County resident came back to Sylvania and rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries, scoring twice.
    Jenkins scored just before the end of the half on an 8-yard run around right end, then opened the third with a 10-yard sprint in the same fashion.
    "Coach just said run to the outside," said the junior. "That's what I do."
    The Gamecocks (0-1) would actually out rush SHS 281-280. Travis Coles rushed for 103 and Johnson amassed 138. Todd Scott added Screven's final score on the night.
    Jacob Lockett carried the ball 13 times for 78 yards and Lanier finished with 48 on the ground. Connell was 2-for-4 passing for 58 yards and one score. Sophomore Jeffrey Spells picked off a first-quarter Johnson pass.
    "We don't make any excuses," said Collins. "They beat us tonight on this field, fair and square. Congratulations to Statesboro, they'll have a great year. We got a lot to work on and we'll get better."

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