By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
SHS plays for top of subregion

# 5 Statesboro (7-1, 2-0) at Wayne Co. (4-3-1, 2-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.1 FM

    The goals of the Statesboro Blue Devils rarely change.
    Each season, Statesboro expects to compete for region and state titles and not a game pops up on the schedule that the Devils don’t expect to win.
    Tonight, Statesboro (7-1, 2-0 Region 3-AAAA) has a chance to win yet another game and move one step closer to the goal of a third consecutive region title.
    The Devils travel down to Jesup to take on Wayne County at 7:30 p.m. Both teams have won their first two sub-region games, turning tonight’s showdown into a de facto sub-region title game. The winner will host Burke County for the Region 3-AAAA crown next week.
    “There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment among our team in that we’ve gotten ourselves to this point,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “Of course, there’s still a long way to go. We really aren’t thinking of this as a championship-type game, but we do know that Wayne County is a very tough opponent and that it will certainly be a great challenge for us.”
    The Yellow Jackets (4-3-1, 2-0) haven’t had quite the success as Statesboro and definitely haven’t earned the accolades of the fifth-ranked Devils, but find themselves in the same position as SHS.
    Not only will the winner of tonight’s game have a shot at the region championship, but it will also clinch a guaranteed spot — and an assured first round home game — in the state playoffs.
    “It’s been a little while since Wayne has been in this situation,” said Pennington. “I’m sure that it’s going to be a big crowd and that there will be a lot of excitement out there.
    “This is the type of game where our seniors really have to show their leadership. This isn’t the beginning of the year and they’re getting closer to the end of their time here. There are going to be some storms and our experienced guys are going to have to help us weather them.”
    If the Jackets are going to bring a storm against Statesboro, they’ll first have to figure out the Blue Devil defense. The Devils allowed their first defensive score in four games when South Effingham scored a late touchdown last week and have surrendered more than eight points just twice this season.
    Wayne will look to break that trend with a spread offense keyed by quarterback Malique Jackson. The Jackets — like many of Statesboro’s opponents —will feature plenty of different sets, but everything begins with the effectiveness of Jackson.
    “With all due respect to (Burke County quarterback Donquell Green), Jackson might be the best quarterback we’ve faced. He can run the ball hard, but his best weapon is his arm. He can take some shots downfield and be very effective.”
    Pennington stressed that his defensive line’s ability to keep the Jackets from settling into a power run strategy would be key. The Devils have an undersized defensive front this season, but have steadily improved as the year has progressed.
    Offensively, Statesboro will look to its tried and true wishbone running attack to continue to churn up yardage. The Devils’ backfield is as healthy as it has been all year, but faces a challenge in a very big and deep Wayne County defensive line.
    “They have five or six guys that they’ll cycle through to stay fresh,” said Pennington. “And they’re like a locomotive that is going full speed on the first step. Moving them isn’t always an option, but preventing penetration and negative plays is what we need.”
    Pennington expects tonight’s game to be a full four quarters of struggle. He should take solace in the fact that his team has proven that it can execute in the clutch. The Devils have been involved in plenty of competitive games this season, putting away its opponents early in the second half in some cases while hanging tough for the full 48 minutes in others.
    Another 48 minutes of maximum effort will be necessary for the Devils against Wayne County. If they can do that, a revenge game against Burke and a chance to cross one of those goals off of the list will be the next stop.

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