For as much as Statesboro has accomplished this season, it doesn’t seem to be running out of new ways to impress.
Having protected their home field in each of the first two rounds of the GHSA state playoffs, the Blue Devils were forced onto the road last Friday, but promptly sent No. 4 ranked Kell home for the winter.
If the pregame routines for the teams were any indication of how they played, they could have saved everyone the trouble of bearing the bitter cold and biting wind, and Statesboro could have just moved on to this week’s semifinals.
For the Longhorns — who were undefeated on the season and making their first quarterfinal appearance in just their seventh season of competition — Friday’s game was treated as a celebration that was expected to turn into a coronation.
Kell strutted to the field though the home stands as the student section seemed to be busy making plans for a trip to the Georgia Dome for a state championship.
Meanwhile, the Devils — cheered on by a loyal contingent of fans that made the long trek to Marietta — calmly trotted out to their sideline.
As Kell jumped around behind its banner, waiting for the fog machines to reach the critical mass that would make for a suitable introduction, the Statesboro kickoff team stood in position on the field.
It became evident that the Longhorns were there to party while the Devils were there to play.
To Kell’s credit, it displayed a level of talent that not many of Statesboro’s opponents have matched this season. Running back Brian Randolph boasted 4.3 speed while quarterback Austin Petrick entered the matchup with efficiency numbers usually reserved for video games and a 6-foot-5 receiver in Hunter Marshall that had at least a handful of inches on every member of the Blue Devil secondary.
But if we’ve learned anything at all about this season’s Statesboro team, it’s that none of that matters.
On a day that was about relaxing and taking a break for most people, the Devils had a business trip to attend to, and played accordingly.
Once again, Statesboro demonstrated how to win exactly as a team should — with everyone pitching in.
Whether it was Reggie Owens picking off Petrick for just the second time all season, Justin Spells and Branden Williams holding the defensive line and stopping Kell short on 4th-and-inches in the fourth quarter, or running back Dequan Daniels sealing the Longhorns’ fate with a 91 yard touchdown run, everyone in blue and white found a way to chip in to get the win.
Now, Statesboro is officially in uncharted waters.
Despite the Devils’ five state titles and their incredible track record of success this decade, there are no players on the roster that have been to a state semifinal. Statesboro will face a huge test in Chattahoochee, which hasn’t lost this season and trails only fellow semifinalist Tucker in points scored this season.
The Cougars have cakewalked through their season so far, winning all but one game by at least 21 points. Both the offense and defense seem to be packed with talent for Chattahoochee, but the Blue Devils wouldn’t have it any other way.
Statesboro has made a living off of beating the best this year and is all too happy to leave the stats, accolades and chest-thumping behind for a chance to settle things on the field.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.