Statesboro High football is synonymous with success. From its history of five state championships to its recent region titles to the Prow Bowler and Super Bowl champion that it can count among its ranks, there is no denying the school’s high standing.
But over the last decade or so, those Blue Devil teams — while still strong and relevant on the state level — have been seen as a bit one-dimensional. From the otherworldly defenses of the early 2000s to the smashmouth rushing attacks of the past few years, much of the credit for Statesboro’s success has gone to a single facet of its game.
Last week in a 25-15 victory over Lakeside, the Devils showed that the 2013 squad is one that can hold its own in all phases of the game and one that can call on any unit to make a big play.
“We knew that it would be a tough game,” SHS receiver Joe Corless said following the win. “The defense made plays all night and then (the offense) had to do its part.”
While still able to line up in its double-tight wishbone and overpower teams for tough yardage, Statesboro made good on the preseason promise to open up the playbook and spread things out.
Usually hesitant to show a passing formation unless absolutely necessary, the Devils lined up in the shotgun over one dozen times on the night. Quarterback Colin Chance was a model of consistency, connecting on 11-of-14 passes. With the Lakeside defense respecting the pass, a quartet of SHS running backs were able to pound the ball on the ground and sustain drives.
Once the Devils took the lead in the fourth quarter, their old-school, lunch pail wishbone look worked just as it has so many times. A balanced attack helped to put points on the board before the big offensive line and power run game put things on ice late.
While Lakeside was able to put up 15 points, the Statesboro defense was rock solid for most of the night. A safety committed by the punt team and a kickoff return for a touchdown left the Devils’ defense on the hook for just one Lakeside scoring drive.
Last season, mobile quarterbacks and offenses that could go from sideline to sideline were the thorn in the side of the Statesboro defense. Hunter Banks entered Friday’s game as an experience quarterback in Lakeside’s spread offense, but was under duress throughout the night.
The high point of the Devil defense’s night came as the Panthers tried to rally early in the fourth quarter. Third down conversions allowed were a common theme in Statesboro’s losses last season. But on the biggest third down of the night, Anthony Gore tracked down a scrambling Banks to put the SHS offense back on the field for the clinching score.
Statesboro has the luxury of playing its first two games in the friendly confines of Womack Field. The Blue Devils will take on Richmond Academy Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Last season, the Devils controlled much of the contest in Augusta, but had to recover an onside kick in the final minute to seal the win. ARC returns plenty of talent and will be looking to build on the two quarters of power football it displayed against Statesboro last season.
Both schools compete in Region 3-AAAA, but the cross-region matchup will have no bearing in the playoff eligibility of either team. The Devils play another cross-region game against Burke County — one of just two regular season losses for the Devils last season — on Sept. 20.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.