The 2017 Statesboro Blue Devils (2-6, 0-3) have won as many games as the past two seasons combined, but unfortunately join the 2015 and 2016 teams with the dubious distinction of missing out on the post season.
The Devils have been competitive in all but one game this year, and in fact, held the lead in the fourth quarter in three of their losses, but couldn’t find a way to close and ended up missing the postseason for the fourth straight season. They wrap things up on the road at Wayne County (7-1, 3-0) tonight.
“I think the team is extremely disappointed and I know the seniors are hurting that they won’t get to play in the postseason,” said Statesboro head coach Jeff Kaiser. “We shortened practice a bit this week, but the kids came out and worked hard and seemed enthusiastic, and that’s how they’ve been all year.”
The process of trying to keep the players' heads up started before they even left the fieldhouse Friday night.
“We don’t allow the players to leave with their heads down,” said Kaiser, “We have said all year chin up, chest out, and this is the kind of adversity they face and will continue to face in their lives after football.”
With their loss to South Effingham ending any shot at the postseason, Statesboro has nothing to play for at this point except pride as they travel to Jesup, but Kaiser feels that should be enough to get another solid effort out of the Devils.
“This is another opportunity for our team to compete,” said Kaiser, “Whether it’s your last football game or you’re shooting marbles in the backyard, you teach kids a lot about competition and to play to win.”
As for the Yellow Jackets, they wrapped up the region title with a 28-14 win over Ware County last Friday, so there is nothing at stake for them either, except to close the season on a bright note and to extend their 5-game winning streak against the Blue Devils.
“I think their mindset going into this game is a lot like ours,” said Kaiser, “ I expect them to come in ready to compete, I think they might be quick to substitute and maybe work on their depth but you can’t answer that until you see the flow of the game.”
The Jackets' lone loss came to Glynn Academy and are averaging 30 points per game while their defense is allowing only 14 points per contest, their numbers may have been even better if they hadn’t lost quarterback Garrett Overholt for a few games. Overholt threw for seven touchdowns and 307 yards in a 49-14 win over Appling County earlier this year.
“They were without their starting quarterback for a few weeks but he came back for their win over Ware County,” said Kaiser, “They are big and fast and have some good receivers, but their most impressive quality is their defense. They are really strong, and use a 4-3 scheme, they also have a lot of seniors on that side of the ball.”
Statesboro and Wayne County square off tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Jesup.