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Blue Devils face Tattnall in Reidsville

Statesboro (2-0) at Tattnall County (2-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM

    It may be cliché, but Statesboro Blue Devils coach Steve Pennington is quick to point it out.
    “I’m glad to say that this week has been business, as usual.”
    For the Devils — ranked ninth in the state in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll — everything about their 2-0 start to the season has either met or exceeded expectations. Statesboro outlasted rival Lakeside in the season opener before dismantling Richmond Academy last week.
    Tonight, the Devils get their first road test of the season as they Travel to Tattnall County.
    These two schools have gotten together in each of the previous three seasons and while Statesboro plays one level up in the GHSA’s classification system, the Battle Creek Warriors (2-0) have given the Blue Devils a tough test in all of them.
    But in terms of each team’s ability to strike fear into opponents, the squads appear to be going in opposite directions.   
    Statesboro has opened up the playbook this season, with its always-threatening power running game sharing the spotlight with an option attack and quarterback Colin Chance’s 298 passing yards over the first two games.
     Conversely, the Warriors lost their biggest offensive weapon when Brandon Purcell graduated.
    “He certainly gave us a whole mess of trouble,” Pennington said of Purcell, who passed for 151 yards and rushed for 51 more in last year’s game. “I can’t say we’re too upset about not having to see him again.”
    This season, the Warriors have managed just 23 points, but stingy defense has dug out a pair of wins. Tattnall County may seem content to use a more conservative offense that is similar to Statesboro’s wishbone packages.
    Still, the Devils are ready for anything.
    “Last year, Tattnall had been showing a lot of wishbone,” Pennington said. “Then, two series into the game, they went spread. We definitely have to prepare for everything we think they can show us.”
    Similarly, the Devils are trying to prepare for whatever look the Warriors’ defense will show. Tattnall County runs a base defensive set that is nearly identical to the Devils, but will have to make adjustments when Statesboro shows its newly-implemented shotgun and spread sets.
    With multiple skill position players possessing gamebreaking speed, the Devils are able to attack in many different ways. Running back Zach Grant has gotten loose on some outside runs so far this season and Joe Corless — who hauled in a pair of touchdown passes and totaled 104 receiving yards last week — is a deep threat that must be contained, but the Warriors should be comfortable in defending Statesboro’s more traditional looks.
    “We know that we’re going to have to fight and scrap for every yard when we’re in our tight sets,” Pennington said. “Tattnall has a tough bunch of guys on defense that are used to facing us.”
    For Tattnall County, tonight’s game marks the last game of the season before Region 1-AAA competition begins.
    If Statesboro can chalk up another win against the Warriors, all eyes will be on the Devils next week. Statesboro doesn’t play a sub-region game until October, but if it can get past Tattnall, Burke County will come to town next week for a Region 3-AAAA crossover game that will feature a pair of top-10 teams in the state.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.