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Blue devils hit the road to Evans

    Statesboro has already avenged on of its losses from last season. Tonight, it hits the road to take a shot at notching some more payback.
    The No. 5 Blue Devils (7-0, 3-0 Region 2-AAAA) travel to Augusta tonight to take on Evans (2-4, 0-2) in a rematch of last season’s game in which the Knights came to Statesboro are ruined homecoming.
    This time around, the numbers favor the Devils. Statesboro is already the only unbeaten team remaining in sub-region play and — coupled with a loss by Greenbrier to Effingham County tonight — can clinch a state playoff berth and a spot in the region title game with a win. Then again, the Devils were in a very similar spot last season before being upset.
    “I know what the records would indicate,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “But that doesn’t matter. You don’t know who the better team is until you play the game. Last year, Evans was the better team in our meeting.”
    Past results and predictions aside, the Devils come into tonight’s game with a lot of momentum. Statesboro crushed Effingham County two weeks ago and — in a meeting of teams that were unbeaten in sub-region play — blew out South Effingham by a 41-17 count last week.
    After an opening stretch of five games in which the Devils had to battle well into the fourth quarter to secure victories, Pennington hopes that the results from the last two wins show that his team understands what it takes to come out on top each week.
    “We preach every week to play with focus and intensity,” said Pennington. “Winning those close games shows that. I think that these last few weeks have shown that we can play with fire and at a high level for four quarters.”
    Tonight, the Devils will have to be prepared for some new looks on both sides of the football.
    Statesboro faced variations of the shotgun spread for the first five weeks and has had to deal with power running attacks in its last two games. Tonight, they’ll have to be ready for just about anything.
    The Knights are evenly split between running and passing and have a knack for staying a step ahead of whoever is trying to defend them.
    “They are very confident in the system that they run,” said Pennington. “Evans never runs the same formation twice in a row and they are very effective in their play-action passes. There are a lot of things going on and our guys will have to play smart to be in the right position to make plays.”
    When the Devils’ offense takes the field, things might look less crowded than usual. Many teams have countered Statesboro’s standard double-tight, wishbone attack with five and six man fronts, but the Knights will be different.
    “They run more of a 4-4 scheme,” said Pennington. “This will be a great challenge for us. There are different reads and different keys that our line will have to make in order to block the right guy and create running lanes.”
    Last season, the loss to Evans caused Statesboro to have to win its final regular season game to earn a spot in the region title game.
    With a win, Statesboro can improve to 8-0 for the first time since the 2008 season.

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