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Effingham County rolls over Statesboro
SHS Football
Statesboro High kicker Michael Crews sends a 40-yard field goal attempt through the uprights despite the efforts of Effingham County's JR McKenzie on Friday, Sept. 2.

Statesboro High and Effingham County have had some tremendous games through the years. Friday was not one of them. 

Statesboro came in averaging 49 points per game and the Rebels came in 0-2 but Friday night the Blue Devil offense sputtered while the Rebel offense was clicking on all cylinders as they jumped out to a 26-7 lead and cruised to a 32-10 victory. 

“Their defense just hit us in the teeth,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “We didn’t execute well offensively and the defense was on the field too much. We tried a little something different coverage wise because they pitch and catch the ball so well, but I feel like it bit us. We felt like we needed to make those adjustments as the season moves on into region play but we didn’t execute.” 

The Rebels came in allowing 21 points per game and had scored just one touchdown, but those games were against Richmond Hill and Burke County. Meanwhile the Statesboro offense was averaging nearly 50 points per game but had surrendered just over 28 points per contest. 

Led by Nate Hayes (son of former Statesboro assistant basketball coach Nate Hayes) the Rebels had plenty of success through the air as he was 15-27 for 260 yards and three touchdowns Hayes also ran for one score. Effingham had 360 yards of total offense compared to just 174 yards for the Blue Devils. 

“Effingham is a good team and they just licked us,” said Kaiser. “They have some guys who can really go up and get it. Their receivers are all athletic and tall and can run. We made some adjustments to try and stop it but they took advantage of it and hit some big plays.” 

The Blue Devils offense not only struggled to gain yards, but they also hurt themselves with four turnovers. Statesboro had one fumble and Kam Mikell struggled through the air finishing 1-5 with three interceptions but Kaiser indicated after the game he was sticking with Mikell throughout the game. 

“We had some uncharacteristic turnovers and that killed us,” said Kaiser. “Credit to Effingham we knew their guys up in the defensive box were really good and they showed that tonight.” 

Effingham started the game moving downfield behind the arm of Hayes and many different receivers. Once they got close the Rebels gave the ball to Keysean McCar who scored from 5-yards out for a 7-0 lead.  

The Statesboro offense struggled but a nice punt by Avery Newton pinned Effingham deep. The Blue Devil defense kept the Rebels inside the 5-yard line and on the Rebel punt lineman Creighton Horst pushed the Effingham lineman back and the punt hit him in the head and flew into the air. When the ball landed Denim Mincey scooped it up and scored. Michael Crews extra point tied the game at 7-7. 

Tied at 7-7 the second quarter belonged to the Rebels. Hayes completed a couple passes to Keion Wallace and then completed the drive scoring on an 8-yard keeper for a 13-7 Effingham lead. On their next offensive series Mikell took off downfield and while being tackled was on top of the defender as the ball popped up and was scooped up by Kelton O’Neil who would have scored if not for a nice play by Payton Wedlow. Effingham scored moments later as Hayes hit a wide-open Timothy Brown in the end zone for a 19-7 lead. 

The Blue Devils defense was able to get Effingham into quite a few third and longs but the Rebels were able to convert. On their final drive of the first half Hayes hit a leaping Ashley Thompson for a 39-yard pass on third and six. The Rebels capped the first half scoring on a 26-yard pass to Wallace for a 26-7 halftime lead. 

Horst blocked another punt to start the third quarter giving Statesboro the ball on the Rebel 17-yard line. On their first offensive play a holding call pushed them back and they’d have to settle for a 40-yard Crews field goal to cut the lead to 26-10. 

The Statesboro defense did a much better job of containing the Rebel offense in the second half, but Effingham added a 60-yard touchdown pass from Hayes to Wallace early in the fourth for the final points of the game. 

“I was really proud of how the defense played in the second half for all but one play,” said Kaiser. “We just have to keep working to get better, we have a long season ahead.” 

Statesboro falls to 1-2 while Effingham improves to 1-2. Up next Statesboro has a bye week before hitting the road for Jesup and a matchup with Wayne County Sept. 16.