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Statesboro clashes with ARC

Richmond Academy (1-0) at Statesboro (1-0)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
Womack Field

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    One week after taking down Class AAAAA Lakeside in its home opener, the Statesboro Blue Devils face another tough test tonight as the Academy of Richmond County pays a visit to Womack Field in a Region 3-AAAA cross-over matchup.
    Similar to last week’s win, the 2012 contest between the Devils (1-0) and the Musketeers (0-1) was a back-and-forth struggle where Statesboro struggled through the middle quarters only to come on strong at the end for a victory.
    “We certainly had our hands full last season,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “That’s what we expect from Richmond Academy. They always have a ton of athletes that can hurt you.”
    If the Musketeers want to hang tough again tonight, they’ll have to find some playmakers amongst a group of new starters.
    Richmond sustained heavy losses due to graduation last season. Chief among them were the departures of quarterback Barry Bowdre and running back C.J. Welcher. In last year’s game against Statesboro, Welcher rushed for 176 yards and a score while Bowdre went 10-of-14 through the air with a touchdown pass. The pair combined to put up over 90 percent of the Musketeers’ offense on the night.
    No matter whose hands the bal is in, the Devils will have to be prepared to do battle in the trenches.
    “This is going to be a test for both of our lines,” Pennington said. “Lakeside had some smaller guys. Richmond is going to have some guys with superior size compared to us. Hopefully, our guys will be able to respond to that.”
    Looking at the Devils’ offense, the newly expanded playbook passed its first test in the opener.
    New offensive coordinator Mike Daniels took to the air with quarterback Colin Chance as Statesboro showed a much more balanced look than in previous seasons.
    Akarri Williams and Zach Grant shouldered most of the rushing load while Joe Corless proved to be a reliable target in the passing game. Sherrodric Rawls sat out the first game with an injured foot, but will bring even more speed to the backfield once he’s back to full strength.
    “We know that we’ll see different defenses with the different looks we show,” Pennington said. “But ARC tends to stick to its base defense. Hopefully we’ll be able to execute against the look they show us.”
    The biggest hole the Devils are looking to patch is in its special teams play. Statesboro allowed a 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Lakeside and misfired the snap on a punt which led to a safety.
    Statesboro has had plenty of close games over the last few years, meaning that the special teams will have to be on top of their game when just a few points is the difference between a win and a loss.
    “Let’s just say that we labored through Labor Day,” Pennington said. “We were fortunate to give up eight points like that and still come away with a victory. That’s not something we can afford to do again.”
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404