For the first time in 2012, it was a football Friday night in Georgia.
Statesboro hosted Southeast Bulloch in a scrimmage at Womack Field with both teams getting some quality hits in before the regular season starts in two weeks.
With specific rules governing when and where each team gained possession, it wasn’t quite the same feel as an actual game, but the head-to-head competition is what both teams were looking for.
“Overall, I was very glad that we were able to come out here and scrimmage,” said SEB coach Pat Collins. “There are some things I saw that I liked and some things that we need to improve. We’ll take this and move forward.”
Given the ball to open the scrimmage, the Yellow Jackets’ Wing-T offense slowly and surely moved the ball against the bigger Statesboro defense.
No points were scored, but the Jackets were able to drive 42 yards in their four minutes of allotted offense.
“There were a number of positives on offense,” said Collins. “We got some good blocking and ran hard. We’re going to have to move the ball methodically, so those are the things that we need to have a lot of.”
Statesboro’s first drive was similar as the Devils inched their way down the field with their wishbone attack. A 40 yard run got the Devils into scoring position and Quan Daniels plunged in from a yard out with 17 seconds left in the possession.
Given the ball at the Statesboro 25 to start its second possession, SEB again drove, but was denied once more. The Jackets pounded their way to the 5, but the Devils held and Ethan Sandhagen missed, wide left, on a 25 yard field goal attempt.
Daniels showed a flash of the gamebreaker quality he possesses on the first play of the Devils’ second drive. The senior running back raced left, dodged a handful of tackles, and tiptoed in for a 25-yard touchdown run.
The Devils clicked on all cylinders during their possessions in SEB territory, scoring three touchdowns and adding a 42-yard George Hill field goal during their allotted four minutes.
“There are going to be good and bad things in any scrimmage,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We were able to get some big plays and find some success, but there were also places where we need to get better.”
One of the most pleasant sights for Blue Devil fans was the efficiency and effectiveness of the passing game. Though known more for its power running game, Statesboro gave its air attack a solid workout on Friday night.
Colin Chance, who is replacing departed starter Reid Pennington under center, looked comfortable in the pocket as he completed each of his first four passes. He was accurate on his throws – all short crossing routes – including an eight-yard touchdown strike to Sam Kopotic and a 6-yard scoring pass to W.C. Hodges.
Chance looked equally good running the option – a facet of the offense that Statesboro hopes to use more this season. Chance’s long run on the first Statesboro possession was the result of an option play in which he faked a pitch before cutting inside and racing downfield.. Later in the night, Chance delivered a perfectly placed pitch to Diquan Brunson for a 21 yard gain.
“This has been a work in progress for Colin,” said Pennington. “He has worked hard for two years to prepare for his chance. He looked poised and confident. That’s what we want to see.”
After each team’s JV got a possession, the varsity squads returned to the field to go through the cycle again.
The Jackets’ running attack continued to eat up small chunks of yardage, but penalties held them back and they weren’t able to advance past the Statesboro 40.
With Statesboro on offense again, the SEB defense performed better than it had in the second period. A big run by Daniels got the Devils past midfield, but the Jackets forced a four-and-out from there.
“Statesboro got us on some big plays, but we also held our own on some other plays,” said Collins. “(Statesboro) is a very good team. That’s why we wanted to play them. This will only help us.”
From here, just two weeks remain until the season opener for both schools. Statesboro will travel to Augusta to play Lakeside, Evans. Southeast Bulloch heads across the county to face Portal.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.