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Blue Devils welcome South Effingham

S. Effingham (4-3, 0-1) at No. 5 Statesboro (6-1, 1-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
Womack Field

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    With just three sub-region games to shape how the region will play out, there is no room for a letdown from the Statesboro Blue Devils.
    The fifth-ranked Devils (6-1, 1-0 Region 3-AAAA) got their sub-region schedule off to a good start with a win over Liberty County on Oct. 11, but now South Effingham (4-3, 0-1) comes to town for Statesboro’s homecoming fighting to stay in postseason contention and hungry for the upset.
    The Mustangs have fallen to Statesboro in each of the last four seasons and are winless in six all-time meetings with the Devils. But South Effingham is off to its best start since 2008 and will field the most talented Mustang squad that any of the current SHS players have seen.
    “There is no doubt that they are much improved,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “You definitely don’t take anything for granted. South Effingham is very familiar with us and our region alignment has turned this into a growing rivalry. That makes for a lot of close, tough games.”
    Also making things tough on the Devils will be the Mustangs’ formidable running attack.
    Josh Mercer — who has already committed to North Carolina State — grabs all of the headlines with his bruising runs and blazing speed, but the Mustang offense is far from a one-trick pony.
    Cordero Leveritt lines up at fullback and poses just as much of a threat as Mercer.
    “(Leveritt) is a little small for a fullback, but he’s a great runner,” said Pennington. “The way that South runs its offense is also effective. They’re a lot like us in that we know they like to run, but they do a good job of not showing any tendencies on where they’re trying to run it.”
    Mercer and Cordero will have the task of finding a way past one of the hottest defenses in the state.
    Statesboro was humbled in its 35-14 loss to Burke County back on Sept. 21, but hasn’t allowed an opposing offense to score a single point since. The Devils’ domination has started up front where Lex Womack and Jesse Burnett control the line of scrimmage and has allowed the linebackers and defensive backs to fly around the field, forcing 10 turnovers in the last three games.
    Offensively, the Devils are thankful that last week brought about a much needed bye week on the schedule.
    Injuries have led to a revolving door in the SHS backfield as 13 different Devils have carried the ball — including some defensive regulars. Some bumps and bruises remain, but the Devils should be near full strength as they take on a Mustang defense that allowed 42 points in its sub-region opener against Wayne County last week.
    “We’re about as healthy right now as we have been at any point in the year,” said Pennington. “And now is a good time to get healthy. That tenth game of the season is listed as the play-in game, but with only three sub-region games, every single one of these is like a play-in game.”

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