After nine weeks of play, it all comes down to this.
Statesboro hits the road tonight to take on Brunswick for the Region 2-AAAA title and a No. 1 seed in the Georgia High School Association playoffs beginning next week.
For the Blue Devils (7-2, 4-1 Region 2-AAAA) a win would secure their first region title since their state championship campaign in 2005. The Pirates (7-2, 5-0) are two-time defending region champs and have clinched each of them with wins over Statesboro in the past two season finales.
“Obviously, we remember our recent history with Brunswick,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We’re going to go out on that field and try to win, not because it’s Brunswick or because we want revenge, but because we try to win every game and a region title is one of the goals we’ve set for ourselves.”
Despite the two late-season losses to the Pirates, the Devils need only to look a couple of months back to find the book on beating Brunswick.
Facing each other in a cross-region matchup that didn’t count toward region standings in its season opener, the Devils rolled into Brunswick and emerged with a 21-12 victory.
While both teams have grown in the past eight games, the outline of Statesboro’s game plan should remain the same — keep the ball away from Brunswick.
The Pirates have ridden their high-powered and fast-paced spread attack to the top of the region standings and have made a habit out of lighting up scoreboards. Brunswick is averaging 33 points per game, and the Statesboro game marks the only time all season that it has been held under 20 points.
Senior quarterback Chris Anderson is a dual threat – he rushed for 83 yards and passed for 199 in the opener – and he has a host of athletic receivers that can stretch the field horizontally and vertically.
“They’ve moved some people around in their offense since our first meeting,” said Pennington. “They’re still very dangerous, if not more so.”
To counter that threat, the Devils will turn to the power running game that has served them so well this season.
Back in August, Statesboro went right after the undersized Pirate defense and wore them down.
The Devils ran the ball on all 46 of their plays, racked up 351 yards of offense, and dominated the time of possession battle to keep the ball out of Brunswick’s hands.
Win or lose, the Devils have already accomplished one of their main goals. Statesboro has already claimed its spot in the state playoff field and is guaranteed of hosting at least its first game of the postseason.
“This is a big game, and we want to win the region,” said Pennington. “But there is actually a little less pressure this week. Last week, a loss would have meant that we missed out on the playoffs altogether. Knowing that we have a spot waiting for us should help us to relax and be a little more focused on the task at hand.”
If the Devils win, they will host No. 4 seed Tri-Cities out of Region 4-AAAA next week. A loss will set up a home date against the loser of this week’s matchup between Creekview and North Clayton.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.