By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Devils take on Tri-Cities
102910 SHS FOOTBALL 04
Statesboro High's Aaron Lester (32) leads fellow running back Dequan Daniels through a hole against Greenbriar October 29. Tonight, Statesboro takes on Tri-Cities in the opening round of the GHSA state playoffs.

It’s put up or shut up time tonight as Statesboro welcomes Tri-Cities to Womack Field for the first round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs.

The matchup features a clash of football tradition as the five-time state champion Blue Devils (8-2) host the Bulldogs (7-3) who are making just their fourth state playoff appearance in school history and have never won a game in the postseason.

Every non-freshman on the Statesboro sideline has gotten a taste of playoff action before, while no one in a Tri-Cities uniform was on the team the last time it made it to the postseason. Experience leads heavily toward the Blue Devils’ side, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be taking anything for granted.

"A situation like this can really work both ways," said SHS coach Steve Pennington. "On one hand, our team has some experience to draw on. We’ve played on big stages like this before and we know what it takes to get wins in the playoffs. On the other hand, the excitement of being in the playoffs for the first time might give the players from Tri-Cities that little extra bit of motivation."

No matter the tradition, both teams have proven that they belong in this season’s playoff field.

Grouped in a very talented region with perennial powers such as Lovejoy and North Clayton, the Bulldogs were able to hold their own. Tri-Cities sat on shaky ground with a 4-3 mark midway through the season, but closed out the schedule with three consecutive wins to seal a playoff spot.

Statesboro started off hot, making an appearance in the state top-10 poll while racing out of the gate to a 6-1 record. The Devils were briefly thrown off course with a loss to Evans, but some help guided them into the Region 2-AAAA championship game and last week’s 20-14 overtime triumph over Brunswick earned Statesboro a No. 1 seed and home dates for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Tonight’s matchup will feature two teams that are physically similar, but that differ a bit in their game plans.

Statesboro has made its mark all season with its powerful wishbone running game. When in good form, the offense is able to wear down opponents and take big chunks out of the clock.

"It’s no secret that we’ve ridden the coattails of our offense this season," said Pennington. "We count on a good effort from our offensive line, and when we have gotten a lead, our defense has made some plays to keep us ahead."

Tri-Cities also features a lot of bulk on both lines, but the Bulldogs opt to go after opponents with an option attack. The Blue Devils have faced a variety of schemes this season, but Tri-Cities will run more option than SHS has seen all year.

"They only have a few formations, but they execute well," said Pennington. "Tri-Cities will probably be the biggest opponent that we’ve faced all season. We’re going to have to be focused and play with confidence to carry out our plan."

Statesboro will be looking to continue its recent playoff success at home.

The Blue Devils are 10-2 in their last 12 playoff games and 11-2 in the last 13 playoff games in Statesboro — SHS won the 2005 state championship at Paulson Stadium. A win will push the Devils past the first round for the first time since 2008, when they made it to the quarterfinals before falling to Rome.

The winner of tonight’s game will face the winner of the game between Griffen and Lee County.


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