After overcoming some injuries and adversity last week, Statesboro has a chance to make a major statement on homecoming.
Tonight, the No. 5 Blue Devils host South Effingham in a clash between the only 2-0 teams in the sub-region. Whichever team wins tonight will have the inside track on the path to the Region 2-AAAA championship game, a state playoff birth, and a guaranteed home date in the first round of the state playoffs.
“It’s plain and simple,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We’re the only teams in the sub-region without a loss. Whoever wins this game will have a big edge, so that’s what we intend to do.”
Last week, the big story for the Devils was in the offensive backfield. Starters Quan Daniels and Michael Summers were unable to be factors against Effingham County due to injury, but Sherrodric Rawls and Willie Johnson both came up with career nights to lead Statesboro to a win.
Tonight, Summers should return, but regardless of who is carrying the ball, the Devils’ vaunted running game begins and ends with the effort that it gets up front.
“Consistency is something that we always strive for, especially with our blocking,” said Pennington. “We do the same thing over and over. I make know bones about that. I tell our guys that I know they get tired of doing the same thing, but it’s paying attention to details and striving for perfection in those repetitions that will allow us to achieve the bigger goal.”
South Effingham can also boast a running back that will likely make his presence known.
Josh Mercer might not have as much publicity as Daniels or Summers, but is a very dangerous runner that is a threat to break open any game.
“I can’t say enough about Josh Mercer,” said Pennington. “He’s a great all-around athlete. He’s a region champion in the 100 and 200-meters in track to go along with being a great running back.
“What makes South Effingham so dangerous is that (Mercer) isn’t the only threat. They’ve got a quarterback that can throw and run well and another running back that can hurt you. That being said, Josh Mercer is definitely the horse that South Effingham hitches its wagon to and we’re going to try to unhitch him.”
While there is celebration in the air all around the SHS campus, homecoming is always a tricky time for football coaches.
On one hand, every coach wants his team to take part in the festivities surrounding the night. On the other — especially for a team with big expectations like Statesboro — it is critical that every player remembers the task at hand.
“After last week’s game, we went straight into the locker room,” said Pennington. “That’s when we discussed our expectations as a coaching staff for our players about homecoming. It’s a fun week, but we aren’t good enough to get a win if our focus is too wrapped up in other
“Homecoming is a great time for everyone,” said Summers. “It’s fun to be able to join in on everything that goes on all week, but we also know that there’s a job to do once the game starts. Without another win, there is no homecoming celebration for us.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.