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Devils try to get back to winning ways of old
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Statesboro High defensive lineman Chris Hill, left, knocks down a pass attempt by Coffee County quarterback Max Hughes during a game at Womack Field last fall.

     Sitting in his office surrounded by large posters with “state champions” plastered on them, Statesboro High School head coach Steve Pennington still gets the chills when thinking about his 2005 state championship team.
    “The character of those teams was just special,” Pennington said. “It’s something that is harder to find nowadays.”
    But that was over 10 years ago, and the past two years have made 2005 seem even further back than it actually was. 2014 and 2015 are the worst stretch of football in recorded history at Statesboro, and Pennington knows it. It’s been a long summer for the 13th year head coach and it’s given him plenty of time to figure out how to right the ship.
    “There some things that went on the past couple years that I tolerated that I probably shouldn’t have,” Pennington said. “It’s on my shoulders to try and get us back to the place we want to be.”
    Pennington noted his sophomore class might be the key to turning things back to the way it used to be. The group that were freshman last season have been vocal leaders in the weight room and on the practice field all summer, something not seen often in football.
    Pennington says there’s a different feel with this group he has in 2016 compared to the others. According to him the last time he had this positive of a feeling about his team was back in 2013, when Statesboro advanced to the second round of the AAAA state playoffs.
    “With some of these teams there’s been a tendency to complain when it comes time for things to change,” Pennington said. “That simply doesn’t exist with this team.”
    Like many other schools in the state of Georgia, Statesboro will reclassify into a different region this year. Out goes Class AAAAA, Region 3 and in comes Region 2, which brings back two tough opponents in South Effingham and Ware County and introduces two new opponents in Wayne County and New Hampstead. A much smaller region makes for an easier route to the state playoffs for Statesboro.
    In theory, one region win could make the difference between going on and staying home for the Blue Devils. But Pennington was quick to point out that if all you want to do is win one region game then you ought to just stay home.
    “What’s the point of only wanting to win one game?” Pennington said. “If that was the case I would cut practice time and summer workouts.”
    Like the other area high schools, Statesboro has had to deal with the punishing heat and humidity conditions South Georgia brings. Pennington said he’s well familiar with these challenges and has already prepared on how to deal with them.
    “We’ve changed our routine from going two times a day to only going once a day in the morning,” Pennington said. “It’s allowed us to get a half step ahead once we start school and we’re constrained by time.”
    Take Monday’s practice for example, where Statesboro started in full pads, but had to strip down to just shirts and shorts after an hour and a half. Near the end of practice the group got back into full pads, but like Pennington said that’s just all a part of the routine.
    Before Statesboro kicks off their season on August 26, they’ll get a tune up scrimmages against Southeast Bulloch next Friday in Womack Field at 5:30 p.m.