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Devils, Mustangs still vying for first wins of season
SHS football
Statesboro High defender Greg Edwards, top, jolts New Hampstead running back Chris Scott hard enough to know his helmet and glasses off during a fourth quarter run in last week's game at Womack Field. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Today’s game between Statesboro and South Effingham presents one interesting question.
    Is there another game in the country — regardless of level — where a playoff spot is on the line between two winless teams?
    That’s the stipulation that lies ahead of these two teams tonight. Win, and you’re in. Being 1-9 isn’t anything to brag about, but being a 1-9 playoff team is better than being an 0-10 team that stays home.
    “I think most of seniors have had this on our mind,” said junior Julian Harrison. “None of us want to be the team that goes 0-10.”
    Statesboro’s seniors realize what’s on the line tonight. The Blue Devils have been playing football since the Woodrow Wilson administration and an 0-10 team would be the worst one in almost 100 years of recorded football history.
    Statesboro does have one game left after South Effingham against Wayne County, but Wayne is fresh off beating New Hampstead 48-12. Considering Statesboro lost to New Hampstead 40-14, the Blue Devils can’t count on beating the Yellow Jackets in order to get to the playoffs.
    “The biggest thing about this week is that playoffs are on the line,” Harrison said. “That’s what our focus needs to be on.”
    Statesboro’s best chance all season to score the precious first win is South Effingham and the Mustangs are bona-fide bad. There’s no way around it.
    The Mustangs are winless much like Statesboro, but Statesboro can lay claim they’ve at least been competitive in more than half their games this season. South Effingham has kept one game this season within double digits against Wayne County 17-14, but outside that it’s been an unmitigated disaster.
    Wayne was the only game South Effingham even scored double-digit points. The Mustangs have been shutout three times this season en route to scoring 36 offensive points in eight games. That’s five touchdowns in eight games.
    “There were a lot of good seniors who had played at least three years on that team from last year,” said head coach Steve Pennington. “I have tremendous respect for what coach Revell has been doing there.”
    That senior leadership the left depleted the offensive line, leaving current quarterback Anthony Beck consistently running for his life. Beck averages 5.4 yards an attempt, completes 48.6 percent of his passes and has thrown three touchdowns to three interceptions. The lack of protection had led to a lack of established rhythm in the passing game, as evidenced by the numbers.
    The line’s struggles show on the ground as well. South Effingham has yet to score a rushing touchdown this season and averaged 2.0 yards a carry as a team. Olondo Jones gets a brunt of their carries in the backfield, but without a decent line he only averages 3.6 yards a carry.
    It’s because of the offensive struggles South Effingham has had to resort to a lot of gimmicky tactics on special teams, such as running a number of fake punts or rifling kickoffs straight at the front line. Pennington said his teams have prepared for this, but the bounce of the ball is completely random once it hits the ground.
    “Oh they’ll do some crazy stuff on special teams,” Pennington said. “We’ve tried to replicate it in practice so we aren’t to shook up when it happens tonight.”
    Statesboro is coming off a bad loss to New Hampstead last week on a Tuesday 40-14. Granted the Blue Devil’s were coming off three days rest following a 29-0 loss to Ware County, so perhaps a full week’s rest, plus the return of center Chandler Dick, can rejuvenate the Blue Devils.
    Five turnovers on offense and nearly 10 yards a play given up on defense were both season worsts for Statesboro last week. It’s a lot to swallow after the offense looked to be improving week to week, but Pennington said his team can’t dwell on past failures in order to look ahead.
    “We don’t have the time to worry about what all has happened this season,” Pennington said. “All we can focus on is the game we have ahead of us.”
    With South Effingham being as bad as they have, this could be just what the doctor ordered for Statesboro to not just get their offense back on track, but their confidence as well.