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SHS finally jumps into region play

Fall has been here for nearly a month and Statesboro has already played two-thirds of its regular season schedule, yet there is still nothing known about the Blue Devils’ playoff prospects.

Statesboro has a 5-1 record and sits at No. 5 in the Class AAAA poll, but only sub-region results will count in determining which teams play for which available state playoff seeds in the Region 3-AAAA play-in games scheduled for Nov. 9. The Devils will finally open their sub-region schedule this week as they play a Thursday night game against Liberty County for the first of just three sub-region tilts.

So what does such an abbreviated schedule mean for Statesboro?

Well, there are some promising outlooks, as well as some nightmare scenarios.

Starting on the bright side, the Devils can be excited that all of the teams in their sub-region are teams that they have been able to beat recently. Just three teams aside from Statesboro were in the Devils’ region the last two seasons before the GHSA shook things up with reclassification and realignment. Those three teams — Liberty County, South Effingham and Wayne County — make up Statesboro’s sub-region and have posted a combined record of just 1-7 against Statesboro since the 2008 season.

The small amount of teams also makes it much more likely that Statesboro will have a state playoff spot to play for when Nov. 9 rolls around. The region play-in is set up so that the two sub-region winners will play each other for the region title. The winner will take the region’s No. 1 seed in the state playoffs while the loser will get the No. 2 seed. In the other games, the second place team from one sub-region will play the third place team from the opposite sub-region and vice-versa. The winner of each of those games will advance to the state playoffs — with seeding to be determined by records — while the losers will be done for the season.

Because of this setup, three of the four teams in the Devils’ sub-region are guaranteed a chance of playing for a spot in the state playoffs. As the preseason favorite, it seems as though only an unforeseen disaster will prevent the Devils from having a shot at the postseason.

But then again, the small sub-region schedule also offers plenty of uncertainty and the threat of chaos in the short race for the top of the standings.

If Statesboro was the favorite in a region that played a seven or eight game schedule, it could shake off an upset loss and rebound to finish at the top without much help.

That won’t be the case this year. A single loss by any of the four teams will start the panic and two losses could put a team with a good overall record entirely out of playoff contention.

For the Devils, that first place spot in the sub-region is the ultimate — and likely reachable goal. Not only would that guarantee a state playoff spot, but it would also clinch at least a first round home game and give the Devils an opportunity to play for a third consecutive region championship on their home field.

Aside from its one hiccup at Burke County, Statesboro has largely cruised through its schedule.

That all stops Thursday as the smooth sailing of August and September turns into an all-out sprint to the finish line.


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