When Statesboro last went under the Friday night lights, it was still in a battle for control of its sub-region.
Last week, the No. 4 Blue Devils (8-0, 4-0 Region 2-AAAA) took a well deserved bye week, and were further rewarded by seeing Greenbrier lose and having their ticket punched to a second straight region championship game.
The opportunity to defend its region title has been one of the goals for Statesboro all season, but until November 4 rolls around, the Devils are keeping things in perspective.
“That’s a long way off,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington of the region championship – which is still awaiting a champion to emerge from the opposite sub-region.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do and things to improve on before we can worry about that.”
After opening the season with eight straight games, the Devils were glad to get a bit of a break last week. They still hit the practice field each day, but were able to focus more on things that they needed to do to improve themselves rather than studying a new opponent. They may have strapped on the pads like usual, but there was a bit of a relaxed atmosphere around the practice field.
“It’s certainly good to get that little bit of rest,” said Pennington. “Not only do the players get a break physically, but everyone – players and coaches – got a little bit of a mental and emotional break.
“We have a lot of expectations and preparations for each game that can wear on you. Having that off week lets everybody recharge a little bit.”
The Devils’ open date may have come nine weeks into the season, but for a team with high hopes of making another deep run into the state playoffs, the bye week may have served as a perfect rest at the midway point of a special season.
Pennington mentioned that some Devils are still nursing some nagging injuries, but had high hopes that a week off would allow injuries to either heal completely or at least improve enough to take on the tough task of a postseason push.
But now the rest is over and it’s right back to business for Statesboro. With a road trip to Greenbrier scheduled for Friday night, the Devils are hard at work once again.
“It’s a little cliché, but it’s just like riding a bike,” said Pennington. “We got off to rest for awhile, but now it’s time to get back on and start peddling hard.”
With a trip to the region championship – and with it, a guaranteed top-2 seed in the state playoffs - already secured, this week’s game is largely irrelevant. No outcome will help or hurt the Devils’ eventual postseason seeding, but they haven’t come this far without a loss by taking anything lightly.
“We have a lot of veteran leadership,” said Pennington. “I fully expect them to get everyone back on track coming off of the bye week.
"The same goes for this week’s game. The ramifications of the game don’t matter. I expect us to show up Friday night ready to play our best football.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.