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SHS hopes to bounce back against Butler

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7:20 p.m.
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Butler (1-1) at
No. 8 Statesboro (3-1)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
Womack Field

    Statesboro’s hot start came crashing down last week in Waynesboro, but the Blue Devils now return to the comfort of Womack Field and will attempt to get back into the win column tonight when they square off against Butler.
    The Devils (3-1, No. 8 Class AAAA) were humbled in a 35-14 defeat at Burke County, but have moved forward and are keeping things in perspective.
    “When we watch film, we see where we have weaknesses and where we need to improve,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “When you lose a game, a lot of times those weaknesses will look more glaring. The key is to remain focused and continue to work to become a better team.”
    Statesboro will try to get things back in order against the Bulldogs (0-3) who haven’t had much success against anyone this season. Butler won eight games and made the state playoffs last season, but plenty of departed seniors and a new coaching staff are giving it plenty of growing pains.
    Butler has been outscored by a total of 125-18 this season, but Statesboro is never one to underestimate an opponent.
    “I know that Butler has had a rough time,” said Pennington. “But that isn’t something we even want to consider. Our records might make people think some things, but we don’t know who the better team is until we play. If Butler plays a good game and we aren’t prepared or take them lightly, you never know what can happen.”
    To get back on track, one thing that Statesboro will need to improve is its defensive execution.
    The Devils only gave up a handful of big-yardage plays against Burke County, but were unable to keep the Bears’ offense from racking up the first downs. Statesboro allowed conversions on 9-of-12 third downs — something that will have to change tonight.
    The defense will also have to adjust to a new look. Three of the four teams that the Devils have played so far have employed a shotgun spread offense. The Bulldogs run the majority of their plays out of Wing-T and traditional pro sets.
    “It’s a little bit more comforting to play a more traditional team,” said Pennington. “Some of these teams run so many looks and spread the field out so much, it’s hard to get into a rhythm on defense. But we still have to execute. Butler is traditional, but they seem to live off of the big play. They’ve got a couple of big wide receivers, so we’ll need to be vigilant defensively throughout the game.”
    Offensively, the Devils will try to get their offense going again.
    Statesboro scored on its opening drive of last week’s game and crossed the goal line again on the first play of the second half, but was silenced from there.
    The Devils figure to be able to run on Butler, but will have to decipher a defense that likes to bring pressure from all over the field.
    “Our pre-snap reads will be important,” said Pennington. “I don’t know if (quarterback) Colin Chance gets enough credit for what he does at the line of scrimmage. Butler has a kamikaze defense that will come at you from anywhere, so it turns into a numbers game. Colin needs to read the strength of the defense and get us into the right play.”
    Tonight’s game is the second consecutive cross-region game for the Devils.        With reclassification shrinking Statesboro’s sub-region to just four teams, the Devils won’t play their first sub-region game until Oct. 12.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.