EVANS — Statesboro bent, bent and then bent some more. But when it came time to make a play, the Blue Devils made just enough to escape with a 21-0 victory over Lakeside-Evans Friday night.
Weldon Watts picked off two passes and ran the second one in for the game’s final score, crushing Lakeside’s hopes of an upset.
Trailing 14-0 with 3:46 left in the game, the Panthers (2-3, 1-3) got the ball on their own 17. On second down, quarterback Chad Chandler zipped a dart across the middle of the field where Watts was waiting. The linebacker pulled the ball out of the air and took it 25 yards the other direction to give SHS a 21-0 lead.
“Just run as fast as you can,” said Watts of his thoughts after the pick.
The play put was indicative of Lakeside’s struggles for the contest. LHS dominated Statesboro (4-0, 2-0) in time of possession and total yards, but turnovers (3) and penalties (8-50) cost the home side all night. Still, the Blue Devil defense was on the field for just over 29 minutes.
“I have a theory and a belief about being on the field,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “If we don’t like being on the field we need to do something about it.”
Watts’ first interception came at the start of the third quarter. The senior again dropped back into coverage and picked off another crossing route from Chandler.
“I read my key, then I saw (Chandler) throw it and I broke for the ball,” said Watts. “It happened to be there and I caught it.”
The Statesboro offense, however, failed to sustain a healthy drive for much of the game, and after six plays punted the ball back to LHS. The turnover bug bit the Panthers once again, and it was Roquell Gamble’s turn to catch a deep ball off of Chandler and keep LHS off the scoreboard once again.
Chandler’s three picks overshadowed an impressive performance from the junior. Chandler threw for 317 yards on 26 of 46 passing, finding seven different receivers.
The Blue Devils looked to be on their way to another easy win in the first quarter after forcing a missed field goal. Statesboro scored on an 80-yard, 10-play drive, capped by a 10-yard Nic Lanier run to open the scoring.
SHS forced another missed kick half way through the second quarter, and countered with another 80-play drive, this time Lanier went in from 15 yards out.
But from there, the Devil offense stalled, getting only as far as Lakeside’s 35 in the second half.
“I do believe that rhythm is very important,” said Pennington. “Our offense was not on the field on a regular basis, so it was hard to get some rhythm. And that’s our responsibility to move the football. If were not on the field, we can’t keep the pressure on to wear the opponent down.”
Patrick Jenkins ran for 111 yards on nine carries while Lanier totaled 60. Senior tight end Dustin Banks caught six balls for 104 yards for Lakeside in the loss.
Statesboro returns home next Friday, hosting Greenbrier at 7:30 p.m.