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SHS hopes for solid D, high-powered offense
After consecutive first round playoff exits, Devils look for more this season

    When wondering about goals for a season, figuring out Statesboro is always easy.
    Head coach Steve Pennington and his Blue Devils expect to win every game and to contend for a championship every year. Obviously, no team can be that perfect, but Statesboro keeps on trying and usually sticks pretty close to the plan.
    The 2013 campaign opens with Statesboro coming off back-to-back first round exits in the state playoffs. That doesn’t sit well with the Devils, but this year’s group has the talent and experience to make a deeper run.
    While offensive coordinator Kenny Tucker has retired, the Devils retain their run-first, hard-nosed philosophy. But each new team brings about different skill sets that need to be utilized in their own way.
    “I think that we’ve got a very good group of running backs,” Pennington said. “But we don’t have quite the size that we’ve had in the past. At the same time, I feel like our offensive line is bigger and healthier than in previous years. We need to find the right mix.”
    Doing his part to direct the action on the field will be second year starting quarterback Colin Chance. Anchoring the offensive line in front of him will be John Underwood, an All-Region caliber talent who is coming off of a knee injury that cost him all of 2012.
    Chance did a stellar job in his first season under center. He has displayed a strong arm that might open up the Devils’ usually understated passing game. Chance also has good size and speed that will benefit Statesboro as it plans to expand on some of the option looks it showed last season.
    Running primarily out of the wishbone and I-formations, Sherrodric Rawls, Daniel Murphy, Diquan Brunson, Akarri Williams, and transfer Zach Grant will cycle in and out to stay fresh and keep opponents guessing.
    Defensively, the Devils are hoping that a bigger, more physical defensive line will be able to solve some problems that arose last year.
    “We have some learning to do, but we should look the part,” Pennington said. “Right now, you could call (the defensive line) the green machine. That have a lot of raw talent, but they’re still pretty green out there.”
    Junior Brandon Maple is one of the more experience defensive linemen and will be depended on to provide a steady preseance.
    Anthony Gore and Tim Key will anchor an athletic group of linebackers that should fit well against the many spread attacks featured in the Devils’ region. In the secondary, Jackson Ware’s coverage abilities and Jacob Schofill’s hard-hitting will be a deterrent to any team looking to air it out.
    As anxious as the Devils are to get the season underway, uncooperative weather has hindered their ability to run practices the way they want.
    “It’s frustrating that heat and rain keep messing with our schedule,” Pennington said. “That said, we’ve been very pleased with what we’ve seen when we’ve been able to go all-out. There is still a long way to go, but we’re very encouraged with this group and think that we have a lot of potential.”
    Just like last season, the Devils will have to wait until October for their most important games. With just three other teams in their sub-region, October matchups at Liberty and South Effingham and a Nov. 1 showdown against Wayne County will be the ultimate factor in determining Statesboro’s position as they prepare for a deep postseason run.

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