Statesboro (4-0) at Butler (0-3)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
Just one week removed from a big statement win over Burke County, the Statesboro Blue Devils are already looking forward.
The Devils — 4-0 and ranked sixth in this week’s Class AAAA Georgia Sports Writers Association poll — looked dominant in their latest win, but have dubbed the last few days ‘Improvement Week’ as they prepared for tonight’s matchup against Butler.
“I’ve been very impressed with our senior class,” SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We pride ourselves in not getting too high or too low. Last week was a big win for us, but I’ve been pleased with how we’ve gotten right back to business.”
Pennington went on to say that this week’s focus has been on the fundamentals. The Devils have been the better team in all of their games so far, but for a team that takes pride in its execution, there is no such thing as being perfect — even if the win-loss record says differently.
Statesboro’s inward-looking focus this week doesn’t mean that the Devils are looking past the Bulldogs (0-3), but to say that tonight’s game is a mismatch would be an understatement.
Butler has had a quick fall from grace since an 8-3 record and a playoff appearance in 2011. The Bulldogs went just 2-8 last season —including a 40-0 blowout loss at Statesboro — and have been shutout twice this season, allowing 146 points in the process.
Those numbers have the Devils licking their lips in anticipation.
Statesboro has a chance for a few players to have breakout performances, but the most impressive part of the Devils’ fast start is that no one player has been the main factor in the team’s success.
Usually known for its running game, Zach Grant leads all Devils with just 275 yards through four games. A handful of other running backs have combined to produce 792 yards on the ground for the team.
Colin Chance has seen an increased roll in the passing game and has responded well, racking up 477 yards through the air and throwing for five touchdowns against just one interception so far.
“This is what we’ve been working towards,” Pennington said. “That balance is what helps us to be successful. We’re looking for a team effort. The good part is that we have a lot of guys who aren’t interested in individual stats as long as we’re winning.
“The best part is that I don’t think we’re there yet. We’re improving and working toward becoming a stronger team, but we can be better.”
If Statesboro is working towards peaking late in the season, the schedule is setting up nicely.
The Devils’ sub-region consists of just four teams, meaning the games which will decide Statesboro’s postseason fate are still almost a month away. It will be an all-out sprint to the finish for all four teams once sub-region play starts, but the Devils are just fine with that.
“We embrace the challenge that comes with those sub-region games,” Pennington said. “We don’t mind that we play six games before that. Hopefully, we’ll use that time to get to where we need to be.”
Of course, there are more pressing matters at hand in the immediate future.
“We’ll be ready for region play,” Pennington said. “But right now, the best thing for us is to improve and live in the moment. Our biggest day is always the day that we’re in. We’ll look at Butler as our biggest game since that’s the one we’re playing (tonight).”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.