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Blue Devils ready for tuneup

    With two weeks of fall practice already in the books, Statesboro goes under the lights for the first time this season as the Blue Devils host Groves in a scrimmage at Womack Field tonight at 7 p.m.
    Summer weightlifting sessions, 7-on-7 drills and intra-squad scrimmages all make for good practice, but there is nothing quite like strapping on the pads and going toe to toe with another team.
    “This is where we really get to see where we stand and how far we’ve come in the last couple of weeks,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “Not only are we looking to see who is going to stand out on the field, but with the bright lights and people in the stands, we want to see what guys are going to respond to the conditions and give a good effort all night.”
Scrimmages are an important part of the preseason process for any team, but Pennington doesn’t put a premium on what the scoreboard will read at the end of the night.
    “Obviously, you want everyone to perform well, but you have to keep things in perspective,” said Pennington. “You want to score points and you want to see good execution, but this is still just another practice.
    “There are 13 weeks to go before that important final week of the season, and a lot of things will change along the way. Things might look different in about four weeks at the start of region play. They might be different before the first game.”
    Another concern for the Devils coming into tonight’s scrimmage is the overall health of the team. Injuries and scorching conditions have put a small damper on fall practice so far, but those are obstacles that — much like issues in the regular season — will have to be dealt with.
    “It slows us up a little,” said Pennington. “The heat has been pretty bad for the last two weeks, so we need to take it a little easier since safety is a concern. To go along with that, there are some sprains and strains that are going to keep some guys out of the scrimmage.”
    The hitting will certainly be the real thing tonight, but a few things will be adjusted in the scrimmage to suit both teams getting a good look at their squads. Instead of four quarters, six eight-minute periods will be held.
Varsity teams will play the first two periods as well as the final two, with the junior varsity squads competing in the middle two. Special teams play will also be limited as there will be no kickoffs and punts will be limited to the final play of each period.
    After tonight’s scrimmage, Statesboro will return to the practice field for two more weeks. The Devils’ 2011 season kicks off August 26 as they host Brunswick in a rematch of last season’s Region 2-AAAA championship game.

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