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My Take: Top five moments from the prep season
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Statesboro High's Zaquavian Smith, center, drives through the heart of the Butler defense for two of his 40 points as Statesboro won the Region 3-AAAA championship. Smith provided the highlight of the prep sports year two weeks later as his last-second layup sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four of the state tournament. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

With plenty of high schools in and around the Bulloch County area and with each school fielding teams in nearly one dozen different sports, not a year passes by without plenty of captivating moments.
    True to form, the 2012-13 campaign saw plenty of highlight-reel performances that will be talked about for years to come.
    Many deserving stories and accomplishments had to hit the editing room floor to whittle a list down to five, but here are the most memorable moments coming out of the high school ranks.

5. A Devilish Defense
    During the state championship years of 2001 and 2005, the Statesboro Blue Devils boasted plenty of Division I talent on a pair of punishing defenses that struck fear into the hearts of opponents. Heading into the 2012 campaign, the Devils were still a state power, but were more feared for their big-play capabilities on offense.
    Statesboro got off to a solid start before its defense dominated the middle of the season with one of the most impressive streaks seen throughout the state.
    The Blue Devils dropped a 35-14 decision to Burke County in their third game of the season, but a scoreless fourth quarter was the first of 16 consecutive spotless quarters from the Devil defense.
    The streak saw Statesboro post two shutout victories and a third shutout was missed due only to a defensive touchdown scored by Swainsboro in a 32-7 Blue Devil win.
    Highlighting the streak was the 19-0 win over Liberty County. The victory came on a Thursday night in front of a live television audience .

4. Beating the Best
    In the spring of 2013, the Southeast Bulloch baseball team turned in another solid performance.
    The Yellow Jackets had made the state tournament in 2011 and posted a stellar record in 2012, only to end up falling short in the region playoffs.
    This spring saw the Jackets making the leap up to Class AAA and competing in a region with some of the better teams in the state. SEB performed well throughout the regular season, but entered the final week with its state playoff hopes still up in the air.
    The Jackets had to hang their playoff hopes on beating Pierce County — which had been ranked as high as second in the polls and was 19-3 entering the game.
    Southeast Bulloch trailed entering the final inning, but rallied for an offensive outburst and an 8-3 win to clinch the No. 3 seed out of Region 1-AAA.

3. Bucket Brothers
    For all of the rich basketball histories of the Bulloch area high schools, the common theme always seems to be defense. As such, even the best players to come through the ranks are usually limited in the offensive numbers that they can put up.
    Having a player crack the 1,000-point mark for a career is normally something that happens once or twice each decade for these schools, but Portal saw a pair of talented players hit the mark within days of each other this winter.
    The pair had been an effective 1-2 punch for the Panthers for three seasons, but it wasn’t until this spring that they were able to share some postseason highlights. Despite region championships and high seeds, Portal had lost first round state playoff games at home in each of the last two seasons.
    Thanks in large part to the contributions of Morgan and Reese, the Panthers made their second Final Four appearance in school history.

2. Bulldogs Back      on Top
    The Bulldogs of Emanuel County Institute made their third trip to the Class A football state championship and secured their second title in that same span with a dominating 47-7 win over Dooly County in the Georgia Dome.
    Plenty of highlights piled up during the Bulldogs’ 14-1 season, but one play from the championship game stands above all others.
    Senior James Brown ran a crossing route through the middle of the defense before somehow using a single hand to snare a pass while taking on hits from two defenders. Brown then raced 40 more yards for a touchdown that started the party early in Twin City.


1. Just in time
    Throughout the basketball season, Statesboro’s Zaquavian Smith made a name for himself as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the state.
    Smith carried the Blue Devils to a Region 3-AAAA championship — where he scored 40 points in the title game — but saved his most thrilling moment for late in the state playoffs.
    In the Elite Eight, SHS was forced to leave town, travelling to Macon to face fellow region champ Rutland.
    Smith was off his game all night, but was at his best when the team needed it most. Statesboro let a double-digit lead slip away in the final minutes, but Yakeem Coleman raced down the court in the final four seconds to find Smith under the basket. Smith got his shot off with just tenths of seconds to spare, sending the ball through the hoop and sending the Devils to their first Final Four in five years.

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