As the Region 2A-AAAA race heats up, Statesboro appears to be in top form.
The Blue Devils sit alone atop the sub-region standings with a 2-0 mark and have already notched wins against playoff contenders Lakeside and Effingham County. Tonight, Statesboro will try to take full control of the race for the sub-region’s No. 1 seed as the Devils head down the road to Guyton for a date with South Effingham (2-3, 0-2 Region 2A-AAAA).
Though Statesboro appears to be the clear favorite on paper, the memory of its only loss on the year should keep the Devils on top of their game. A 29-0 setback three weeks ago against then winless Liberty County dropped the Devils out of the state polls.
“I certainly hope that we gained some wisdom from the Liberty County game,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “One of the main problems in that game was that we came out unfocused. That’s something that you can’t afford to do and it’s something that we want to avoid against South Effingham.”
The Devils have responded well to the adversity by winning two in a row to begin the sub-region schedule. Even more impressive is that they have been able to keep winning despite a continually mounting casualty count on the sidelines.
Statesboro’s power rushing attack, which depends heavily on solid blocking up front, has seen the offensive line differ from week to week as injuries pop up.
The last two games have also seen the Devils take the field without the services of starting quarterback Reid Pennington, who will likely not be 100 percent for at least two more weeks.
Statesboro’s defense has also had to deal with injuries among the front seven, but the Devils have kept finding ways to win.
“The last few weeks have demonstrated that it takes a total team effort to win,” said coach Pennington. “We aren’t good enough to win without everyone contributing..
“Having some of these younger guys step up due to injury could be a blessing in disguise for us. If we can ever get everyone healthy, we should be an improved team with a lot more experience and depth.”
Tonight, Statesboro will go up against an opponent that has a different look than many other teams on the schedule.
While previous games against teams like Lakeside and Washington County have seen the Devils take on big and powerful teams playing smashmouth football, the Mustangs are a smaller and quicker foe.
“South Effingham doesn’t quite have the same size as some of our other opponents,” said Pennington. “Instead of size, they utilize schemes to gain advantages. They like to blitz from a lot of different places, so our offense will need to have its thinking cap on if we want to string together positive plays.”
The plan of attack will also be a bit different for the Devil defense this week.
Most of Statesboro’s opponents this season have employed a spread attack or single-back rushing schemes, but the Mustangs will show a wing-T look.
“This is the first that we’ve seen that type of formation this year,” said Pennington. “Some of the things we need to do defensively, will be a little different, but the main objective is the same. We need to play with consistency and intensity for four quarters if we want to get a win.”
Tonight’s game marks Statesboro’s final road game in the regular season.
The Devils get Evans and Greenbriar at home to finish out the sub-region schedule, but will have to leave the cozy confines of Womack Field once again in the Region 2-AAAA play-in round November 6.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.