There might still be three months to go before opening night, but at Statesboro High, football is already at the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Last season, the Blue Devils fell just seconds — and a nearly shanked field goal — away from an appearance in the Class AAAA state title game. Over the last two weeks, Statesboro returned to the field after a long winter of hard work, ready to improve on 2010.
With such a close call, many teams would be feeling the pressure of another anticipated run at a state title, but that’s all in a day’s work for the Devils.
“After going through a season like last year, you know that there are going to be certain expectations,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “But here at Statesboro, we always have very high expectations of ourselves. We go into each new season with a resolve to aim high regardless of how the last year finished.”
While getting back up to speed for another trip through the treacherous road that is the Devils’ Region 2-AAAA schedule, Statesboro is also looking towards the future.
During spring practice, the next generation of Blue Devils took part in their routine 8th grade schedules throughout the day only to be thrown into the fire of high school competition after the final bell rang.
“Spring is always crucial for the young kids,” said Pennington. “This is our chance to indoctrinate them into what it really means and the kind of effort that it takes to continue playing football at the next level. We have some very talented kids coming up from the middle school ranks and it’s our job to coach them up to being successful in the next few years.”
The future may be bright for the Devils, but title hopes are just as plentiful in the present.
Pennington and his team are very aware of how close they were to having a shot at another state title and must now find a way to get over the hump.
“Obviously, last season is fresh in the minds of our fans and players,” said Pennington. “We have a chance to do that again, but what we’ve stressed is just how fine the line is between winning and losing.”
The Devils walked that line in impressive fashion in 2010.
Five times, a game came down to the final series with Statesboro emerging victorious in four of those contests. The only slip-up was the game-winning field goal with no time remaining in the semifinal playoff matchup that sent Chattahoochee to the title game — which it would win — and left the Devils with a long, cold winter to think about things.
“As much success as we enjoyed, that’s what we have to be aware of,” said Pennington. “Not much stands between winning or losing on any given night. It takes all of this effort in the spring and throughout the rest of the season to get us to the point where we can end up on the right side of that line.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.