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Devils storming through first half of season

    There’s something a little different about this year’s Statesboro High School soccer team. With a few new players and the right attitude, the Blue Devils have a little swagger about themselves.
    Statesboro’s early-season mojo not only has the players feeling good, but the team holds a perfect 5-0 record and a 2-0 Region 3-AAAAA record.
    Coming off a 3-0 win over Bradwell Institute, SHS soccer coach Nick Thrower said his team is right where they need to be.
    “We’re definitely in the driver’s seat as far as our destiny is concerned and that’s where I expected us to be,” said Thrower. “Our guys have met our expectations and gone beyond that. They’ve gelled incredibly well as a team.”
    Offensively and defensively, the Blue Devils are about as stout as they come in the region. In five games the Blue Devils’ defense gave up just one goal.
    On offense, SHS is averaging just over three goals per game. 
    North Carolina transfer student Dillon Jones has solidified the Blue Devils’ front line, allowing senior captain Alex Wagner more scoring opportunities. In just five games, Wagner has scored eight goals for Statesboro.
    “With Dylan Jones coming in, it’s helped a lot,” said Wagner. “We’ve been able to push Mercer Tedders up to attacking mid and me up to forward which allows us to make more runs. We’ve been able to get some goals out of it.”
    In a 3-0 win over Bradwell Institute Monday, Mercer Tedders, Wagner and Uche Okafor scored.
    Coach Thrower said Okafor has really come into his own this season and is a force to be reckoned with on the field.
    “He’s an animal. He’s a wildcard in the middle and wins most of the 50-50 balls,” Thrower said of Okafor. “Teams just don’t know how to deal with his physicality.”
It’s not just Okafor that can get physical, however. The Blue Devils vaunted defense often control the tempo of the game with their physical play and aggressiveness, Thrower said.
    Senior Ryan Miller returns for the Blue Devils and is having a solid start to the 2015-2016 season. Right backs Justin White and Osay Anen Atekha along with left back Thomas Sullinger provide a steady front for Statesboro’s back line.
    “Our biggest threat is to build from the back and get our defense involved in the attack. Our left back and right back are the most dangerous defenders going forward in the region. We’re able to play out of the back and slowly suffocate our opponents. The chances (our opponents) have gotten have been outside of the 18 or chances in the box,” Coach Thrower said.
    Throughout the course of a season, teams are likely to have a watershed moment at any given point in time.
    For Statesboro, their watershed moment came in just the fourth game of the season against Richmond Hill.
    Wagner scored an early goal to give SHS a 1-0 lead. In the second half, two Statesboro defenders were given red cards and ejected from the game. For 20-plus minutes and down to just nine players, Statesboro’s defense showed what they were made of.
    The Blue Devils held Richmond Hill scoreless with key saves from goalkeeper Kyle Aultman.
    “When we were in that 20 minutes we just felt invincible. It didn’t matter what happened. If they tied it we felt like we could beat them in (penalty kicks). It was some of the most heroic soccer I’ve ever seen. It was like movie-quality heroism,” Thrower said.
    As the Blue Devils get ready for Effingham County High School on the road today, It seems as though Statesboro has everything they need to make a run
    Playmakers on offense, an aggressive defense and most importantly—confidence.