There are many ways to describe the Statesboro Blue Devils.
Gritty. Determined. Intense. All are true, but the most important description is "still alive".
The Devils dug themselves a hole last Friday, but a desperate second half comeback saw SHS erase a 21-7 deficit and Caleb Brown’s 27-yard field goal in the final 10 seconds vaulted the Devils into the second round of the state playoffs.
As impressive as the comeback looks on paper, it was even better to watch.
Tri-Cities looked like the better team for much of the night. The Bulldogs were one of the biggest opponents Statesboro has faced all season and the No. 4 seed from East Point had superior speed to boot.
After building a two touchdown lead, Tri-Cities’ players, fans and even the coaching staff brought out the victory swagger, but — as they have proven all year — the Blue Devils showed why you can’t ever count them out until the clock shows all zeroes.
Statesboro dug deep and found that little extra and started to push back. The final quarter and a half saw the Devils dominate, but no stats can accurately show why this Statesboro squad is still hanging around. For that, you need to look inside.
SHS coach Steve Pennington has instilled the virtues of heart, focus and determination on his team all season. When it finally reached a point where its talent or size wasn’t going to be enough, Statesboro looked inside to that place where on-the-field abilities don’t reach, but where the will to overcome thrives. Once the Devils found that, Tri-Cities never had a chance.
Finding success through those intangibles is nothing new for Statesboro. Twice this season, the Devils took on — and defeated — a Brunswick squad that no one else has been able to slow down.
When an early loss shook the Devils confidence and they found themselves trailing with just minutes to go in a crucial sub-region game with their starting quarterback sidelined with an injury, there was that little extra again, propelling them to another last-second win.
This might not be the greatest SHS team to ever suit up on a Friday night, but these Devils have a mental toughness that can match up against anyone and whoever is looking to take them down is in for the fight of their lives.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.