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Revenge-minded SHS hosts Burke

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7:20 p.m.
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Burke County (2-1) at Statesboro (3-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
Womack Field

    Just like last season, tonight’s matchup between the Statesboro Blue Devils and the Burke County Bears will be a clash between a pair of teams ranked in the top 10 of the Class AAAA state poll.
    The marks the end of where Statesboro wants history to repeat itself.
    Last season, the Devils made the trip up to Waynesboro and came out hot, scoring the game’s first 14 points. It was all downhill from there as Burke scored the final 35 points to claim a resounding victory.
    This time around, No. 7 Statesboro (3-0) hopes that the friendly confines of Womack Field will play a role in producing a different outcome against the sixth-ranked Bears (2-1).
    “We definitely expect it to be a great atmosphere for football,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “Burke County is building a great tradition and I know that their fans will be excited.
    “And I know for sure that our guys are excited. There’s been a little extra pep in our step all week.”
    The Blue Devils will need all the pep they can get their hands on as they prepare to take on Burke County’s do-it-all quarterback Donquell Green.
    After his Bears fell into their early hole last season, Green single-handedly took over the game and willed his team to a win. Green rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 74 more yards. Each time the Devils were able to force a third down, it was Green’s speed — and surprising power for a 160-pounder — that kept the chains moving and the Bears’ side of the scoreboard climbing.
    “That joker can play,” Pennington said. “He’s easily one of the best athletes in Georgia. There’s really no way to stop him. We just need to be sure that we limit the damage that he does.”
    Part of that plan means getting more Devils to meet up with Green and not relying on anyone to make a solo tackle. A young but improving defensive line will have to hold its own against the Bears’ powerful front so that linebackers Tim Key and Anthony Gore can get a clear path to Green.
    Statesboro has plenty of playmakers in its defensive secondary that aren’t afraid to deliver hits, but Green’s arm will force them to stay honest as trying to cheat up to stop Green’s running ability could easily lead to a big play over the top.
    As for the Statesboro offense, a more traditional Blue Devil attack might be the plan for tonight.
    The Devils have shown explosiveness with more passing and different, wide open formations so far this season, but don’t intend to try to beat Burke County in a track meet. Statesboro still has the size and grit to grind out tough yards and will look to hold on to the ball and limit the opportunities for the Bears’ offense.
    “We definitely want to speed the clock up by possessing the ball,” Pennington said. “Our biggest concern is that we don’t get one-dimensional. Last season, we got into a situation where Burke got ahead and forced our hand. With their talent, we can’t afford to be forced out of running our offense the way we want to run it.”
    While the region crossover game won’t have any bearing on either team’s postseason eligibility, tonight could be a preview of November’s Region 3-AAAA title game.

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