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Effingham Co. (5-4, 3-4) at Statesboro (0-4, 0-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
KEEP AN EYE ON THE BIG GUYS: Effingham County’s quirky offensive sets can pose plenty of problems for defenses. A seven man line can thin out a defensive front trying to pick its gaps, but packing too many into the box will open up the outside for a fast backfield. The real danger could be the Rebels’ tight ends, who can easily get lost in the commotion and find themselves open downfield.
WIN THE FIRST QUARTER: A couple of bad breaks kept the SHS defense on the field early last week against Glynn Academy. That, combined with the Blue Devil offense going three-and-out in its first two possessions, put Statesboro too far in the hole. In its two victories, the Devils have had good starts and have carried the confidence built in the first quarter through the rest of the game.
ONE FOR THE ROAD: Playoffs or no playoffs, Statesboro’s seniors have had a great run over their four years. The Devils’ departing seniors should have no problem getting up for one final game while the underclassmen need to keep up the intensity to prepare for 2015 while sending some of their teammates off in style.
It’s a strange situation for Statesboro to know exactly when and where its football season will be ending.
Usually, November brings about talk of region championships and state playoff runs, but the Blue Devils (2-7, 2-5 Region 3-AAAAA) will have neither as they wrap up their 2014 campaign tonight against Effingham County at Womack Field.
To say the season has been a struggle would be an understatement. A move up to Class AAAAA combined with a slew of departed seniors from 2013, a constant string of injuries to key players, and a new region that is stacked with talent.
The result has been some painful losses, but some sort of positive could be taken with a win over old rival Effingham County (5-4, 3-4).
“At the beginning of the season, we talked about reasonable expectations,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “The thing we expected of our team was to improve with each practice and each game. A lot hasn’t gone our way, but we still expect a good effort and it would certainly be nice to end on a positive note.”
If Statesboro is to get that final victory to end the season, it will likely do so by exploiting a Rebel defense that has put on some Jekyll and Hyde performances this season.
Effingham allowed just one touchdown in each of its first three games — all wins — of the season. Since then, the wheels have come off. The Rebels have managed to outscore a couple of opponents, but have allowed 35 or more points in three of their four losses.
“What we like is that Effingham stays in their base defense,” Pennington said of the Rebels’ 4-3 scheme. “When they execute, they’re a good defense that is hard to move the ball on, but we know what we can expect to see them in most of the time.”
The real challenge might be on the shoulders of the Blue Devil defense.
Last week, the Devils were scorched by Glynn Academy’s spread offense and dual threat quarterback. Effingham might not have quite as many playmakers, but still shows an equal mix of run and pass led by quarterback Phillip Brown.
Pennington noted that one of the Rebels’ primary looks — a double-tight end pistol set with two receivers and a running back — was something new to defend.
“They can attack in a lot of ways from that set, so you can’t really cheat in any direction,” Pennington said. “We’re going to have to be very good in reading our keys to make sure everyone is in the right spot to make a play.”
This will be the first season since 1998 in which the Devils won’t make a state playoff appearance.
Tonight will also mark the final game for 14 Statesboro seniors who enter the game with a career record of 30-13.
“One game or one season doesn’t make a reputation,” Pennington said. “We value our seniors and they have given a lot to this program. This may be a tough season, but when I look back on these seniors, it’s a lot of good memories.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.