Three keys to South Effingham's victory over the Statesboro Blue Devils...
Tyler Pullum didn’t have a career day but made the most out of his throws. In addition to his pair of touchdown passes, two other completions came on third down and were enough to move the chains. Pullum was elusive enough to extend plays behind the line while also rushing for 26 yards.
South Effingham’s defense did a good job of keeping the Statesboro offense in its funk. The Mustang offense also helped in that regard, staying on the field and limiting offensive opportunities for the Devils. By the time Statesboro took the field for its third possession of the second half, it was already the fourth quarter.
A loud and near-capacity crowd seemed unaware of South Effingham’s previous success — or lack thereof — against Statesboro. The Mustangs seemed to feed off of their fans after taking the lead and the final few minutes of play produced a constant roar from the home side as fans counted down the victory.
GUYTON — The Statesboro Blue Devils continued their early season struggles Friday, dropping a 17-0 decision at South Effingham in being shut out for the second time in three games.
Tyler Pullum found Landon Lanier for a pair of touchdown tosses and James Hodges added a late field goal as the Mustangs defeated the Devils for the first time in nine all-time meetings dating back to 1998.
For the Devils (0-3, 0-1 Region 3-AAAAA), offense was again the major issue. Statesboro got inside the South Effingham 40 just twice, losing possession on downs once and fumbling once.
“This is a place we haven’t been before,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said of the early losses. “Right now, we’re still trying to find what we can do. We want to stay within the abilities of our players in order to find success.”
With both teams struggling early on, it appeared that Statesboro would be the first to break through.
Jaylen Davis ripped off a 23-yard run across midfield, but Tevin Thomas coughed up a fumble at the Mustang 27 three plays later.
Pullum capitalized, hitting a pair of passes while Patrick Brown (24 carries, 119 yards) gained solid ground with inside runs. Upon reaching the Statesboro red zone, Pullum found Lanier for his first catch of the season — a 20-yard touchdown strike.
Midway through the third quarter, the duo hooked up again.
After Brown had picked up three first downs on the ground, Pullum slipped through the pocket and reached the Statesboro 5. Pullum was flagged for taunting, but bounced back just a few plays later, finding Lanier from 10 yards out for the game’s second touchdown.
“South Effingham proved why they can be so tough tonight,” Pennington said. “Their strength lies in their balance. They were able to do a good job of running the ball all night and then you saw what their quarterback can do.”
Already playing from behind, Statesboro was forced to shake up its offense early in the second half.
On the opening drive of the half, quarterback Austin Kleinlein was injured on a pass attempt. Running back Mahlon Williams assumed signal calling duties until Kleinlein returned in the fourth quarter, but wasn’t able to find any success for the Blue Devil offense.
“Right now, we’re just having trouble at the line of scrimmage,” Pennington said. “On offense and defense, we need to do a better job at the line. We’re searching for consistency. With consistency will come more success.”
When he returned, Kleinlein was able to get the aerial attack working. Landon Haralson hauled in three passes for 63 yards and Kleinlein totaled 103 passing yards, but it was too little, too late.
The Mustangs made it a three-score game with just over four minutes to go as Hodges split the uprights from 31 yards out.
Statesboro drove across midfield one last time in a final attempt to put up some points, but turned the ball over on downs. South Effingham took a couple of knees and then celebrated its first win over Statesboro as the student section poured on to the field.