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SHS happy to be home

    It may still be early, but each week brings Statesboro face to face with another playoff-caliber opponent.
    After starting the 2010 campaign with a hard fought road win against defending Region 2-AAAA champ Brunswick, the Blue Devils now return to Womack Field for their first home game of the year.
    Of course, Washington County is anything but a friendly houseguest.
    Although the Golden Hawks play below Statesboro in Georgia High School Association’s classification system, they have made a habit of taking on all comers and giving every opponent a fight.
    “Last week was a good win, but now it’s time to focus on the task at hand,” said Statesboro coach Steve Pennington. “This is an opportunity to see how well we can handle prosperity with a very tough opponent coming in.”
    For years, Statesboro has prided itself on being a tough and physical team able to impose its will on others. Washington County is a near mirror image of the Devils, utilizing its size and brute force to wear down opponents.
    Last season, the Golden Hawks compiled a 10-2 record and made an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs. Playing, and beating, larger schools has become a trend for Washington County and hasn’t escaped the attention of the Devils.
    “It’s one thing to have a good team,” said Pennington. “What Washington County has is a great program. You can count on them to be a very good team year in and year out. It’s really one of the icon programs in the entire state.”
    The Golden Hawks may not have come away with a win last week, but they certainly proved a point.
    Washington County held Jefferson County’s high-flying offense to 21 points in the tie. While three touchdowns might seem like a lot for a supposed good defense to allow, the Warriors scored more than 21 points on all but one occasion during their run to a 12-1 record and a state quarterfinal appearance last season.
    For Statesboro to move to 2-0 on the season, it will take another all-around solid effort.
    The offense — which didn’t attempt a pass against Brunswick — controlled the clock against the Pirates and didn’t do anything to hurt itself. Another mistake-free game will be necessary tonight.
    “The biggest thing aside from scoring was the fact that we didn’t turn the ball over,” said Pennington. “We didn’t put ourselves in bad situations and that allowed us to keep moving the ball.”
    Defensively, Pennington wants to see a more consistent performance from a Devil unit that stopped Brunswick when it counted, but still yielded some big plays.
    “We need to do a better job of being in position every play,” said Pennington. “Washington is going to come right at us with the run. Between the two of us running the ball, we might play this game in an hour and a half, but our defense is going to have to be in the right places to slow them down.”
    This game looks like a toss-up on paper, with each team intent on pounding the ball and controlling field position. The Devils have another challenge looming before them, but last week’s win might have given them the confidence to take it to another imposing team.
    “We feel good about getting a win, but not too good,” said Pennington. “We need to maintain the focus, desire and hunger to improve in order to get another win. It’s going to be a very tough game, but we’ll take the field expecting to compete and win.”

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