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Overtime heartbreak
Statesboro ousted from playoffs, 31-28
w 111111 SHS FOOTBALL 02
An emotional Herman Lee, center, huddles with teammates and classmates after Friday's 31-28 overtime loss to Thomas County Central.

Box Score
    TCC    SHS
First Downs    12    15
Rush Yards    202    207        Pass Yards    71    115
Total Yards    273    322
Passing    4-6-0    8-11-0
Turnovers    0    1
Penalties    7-65    6-55

Individual Leaders
Rushing: TCC: Choice — 21-97. SHS: Summers — 13-59
Passing: TCC: Choice 4-6, 71. SHS: Pennington — 8-11, 115, TD
Receiving: TCC: Dolford — 3-60, SHS: Daniels — 1-37

TCC    7    0    7    7    10    — 31
SHS    7    0    0    14      7    — 28

1st Quarter
5:47 — Johnson (SHS) 4 run, Rodriquez kick
0:28 — Choice (TCC) 7 run, Wilson kick
3rd Quarter
2:46 — Choice (TCC) 16 run, Wilson kick
4th Quarter
10:16 — Kilgore (TCC) 31 fumble return, Wilson kick
6:53 — McCray (SHS) 11 run, Rodriquez kick
0:56 — Summers (SHS) 1 run, Rodriquez kick
Davis (TCC) 15 run, Wilson kick
Wilson (SHS) 13 pass from Pennington, Rodriquez kick
Wilson (TCC) 25 field goal

    For Statesboro, the 2011 football season was supposed to be one that reaffirmed dominance and ended in a championship.
    Instead, the Blue Devils finished their season in the exact same fashion as 2010 – watching a field goal split the uprights, then walking away as an opponent danced on their field.
    No. 1 seeded Statesboro entered Friday night’s contest at Womack Field as a favorite, but No. 4 Thomas County Central stood its ground. After four quarters and two overtimes of play, Gavin Wilson connected on a 25 yard field goal to notch a 31-28 TCC win and send the Devils home for the season.
    “It was hard, realizing everything was over,” said SHS lineman Herman Lee. As a senior, Friday’s game was Lee’s last as a Blue Devil. “Walking off this field is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I don’t want to leave this family behind.”
    The Statesboro seniors nearly had at least another week to keep playing with their teammates after a huge second half comeback.
    Statesboro and TCC were deadlocked at 7-7 going into halftime, but the Yellow Jackets struck first in the third quarter on a 16 yard run by Quarterback Adam Choice (168 total yards of offense).
    On the Devils’ next drive, Reid Pennington fumbled on a sack and Darrin Kilgore’s 32 yard return made it 21-7 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
    Backed up to the wall, the Devils responded.
    Pennington orchestrated a drive that saw him nearly double his passing total for the entire season, and Rahkym McCray’s six yard scoring run got the Devils within 21-14 with 6:53 to go.
    Statesboro then executed and recovered a perfect onside kick to take possession back.
    “We felt like our hand was forced,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We knew that Thomas County’s offense would be tough to stop and that we would need to score some points. We got into a situation where we had to go for every first down, but our offense responded.”
    With its spirits renewed, the Devils kept punching away at the Jackets. Statesboro quickly moved into the TCC red zone, but was then cornered into a 4th-and-9. Looking to pass, Pennington was flushed from the pocket, but managed to pick up the first down. The Jackets forced a 4th-and-goal from the 1 yard line, but Michael Summers leapt over the line and Alan Rodriquez’s PAT tied the game with 56 seconds to play.
    “That was one of the toughest game’s I’ve played,” said Summers. “Both teams were fighting hard. We got knocked down, but got back up and kept fighting. We just didn’t quite do it in the end.”
    After forcing a three-and-out, Statesboro had a chance to win in regulation. Quan Daniels hauled in a 37 yard pass from Pennington down to the TCC 23, giving Rodriquez a 40 yard field goal attempt with seven seconds to play.
    Possibly rushing because of a blocked kick in the second quarter, the snap was hurried and low. The timing of the kick was thrown off and the ball sailed well right and short of the goalposts.
    The Jackets’ offense struck right away in the first overtime as James Davis took an option pitch from Choice 15 yards for a touchdown. Forced to reach the end zone or go home, the Devils responded as Pennington found Tavist Wilson from 13 yards out.
    Taking the ball first in the second overtime, SHS went nowhere and Rodriquez miss wide left from 30 yards out.
    Sensing victory, TCC inched the ball forward on its possession. The Devils stopped Choice inches short of a first down on his third down run, but the Jackets were well within range, and Wilson’s kick just barely eluded the arms of oncoming Devils before splitting the uprights and ending Statesboro’s season.
    “It’s certainly disappointing,” said Steve Pennington. “These guys fought awful hard all season. This isn’t how we wanted it to end, but we’re a team of a lot of character and we’ll be back.”
    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.