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Statesboro and Griffin battle in second round
111210 SHS FOOTBALL 03 web
Tri-Cities defender Jarius Hollaman (2) catches up to Statesboro's Dequan Daniels after a 35-yard run on the Blue Devil's game-tying fourth quarter drive last Friday.

Statesboro’s dramatic comeback win last week was one to be remembered, but for now, it has to get right back to business.

The Blue Devils (9-2) overcame a 14 point deficit last Friday to defeat Tri-Cities by a count of 24-21 and now faces Griffin (10-1) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the second round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs at Womack Field.

As one of eight No. 1 seeds in the AAAA classification, Statesboro has earned the right to host No. 2 seed Griffin, but the home field advantage won’t make the Devils a favorite by default.

The Bears have rolled through much of their schedule, and a 24-7 setback against Star’s Mill in the Region 3-AAAA championship game remains as their only loss this season.

"Griffin is the complete package," said Statesboro coach Steve Pennington. "They have a lot of talent and some very good coaching. It’s a winning program that is very used to success in the regular season as well as the playoffs."

The Bears are looking to keep riding that seems to have stemmed from last season’s run to the state semifinals, while Statesboro — which defeated Griffin 7-0 in the 2005 semifinals on the way to its last state championship — is trying to make a deep playoff run after bowing out in the opening round last season.

One of the key’s to last week’s victory was the Devils’ ability to contain an explosive Tri-Cities offense. After allowing touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ first three possessions, the Devils made the needed adjustments and kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the way as the SHS offense mounted its comeback.

This week, the defense will need to come up big once more.

Griffin runs the hybrid spread — in which the quarterback lines up in the shotgun with a running back behind him — and utilizes great speed and athleticism to get its playmakers into space.

While not as big or fast as some of Statesboro’s defenses of the past, the 2010 edition has proven that it can still put the brakes on any offense. Lakeside, Effingham County, Tri-Cities and Brunswick — twice — attempted to spread the Devils out and attack with speed, but Statesboro was up to the challenge in each case.

"I think that having a game like last week instills a lot of confidence," said Pennington. "We believe that we can do whatever it takes to beat talented opponents so long as we put forth the effort to prepare. In the playoffs, anyone can show up on Friday night. It’s the hard work that goes on Monday through Thursday that makes the difference."

Even with the home crowd on its side, many are picking Griffin to move on.

The Bears are making their tenth consecutive appearance in the state playoffs and many of this year’s starters are the same ones that made last season’s run possible.

Some public opinion may not be with the Devils, but everyone in blue and white on the sideline has remained confident and will take the field tonight with every intention of strapping up the pads again next week in the quarterfinals.

"The voice of opposition seems to think that we have no business being in this game," said Pennington. "To put it simply, we intend to make it our business when the lights come on at Womack Field tonight."


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