Statesboro coach Steve Pennington is fond of the belief that the most important game is always the one at hand.
He couldn’t be more correct.
The Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1 Region 2-AAAA) host Greenbrier (3-5, 2-2) tonight in a game that — thanks to a muddled middle of the pack in the sub-region — could present Statesboro with a shot at the region title or leave it out of the hunt for a state playoff appearance altogether.
The Wolfpack is in a similar situation. A win over the Devils will earn Greenbrier a spot in next week’s region play-in round — where another victory will mean a birth in the state playoffs — while a loss will end the Wolfpack’s postseason hopes.
“We’ve seen throughout this season that everyone in our sub-region has talent,” said Pennington. “We’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we can win our sub-region, but we still have to improve from our last game if we want to win.”
Aside from controlling its own destiny, Statesboro has also been helped out by its schedule. The Devils have battled injuries throughout the entire season, but last week’s bye offered an extra week of healing time leading up to the biggest game of the season.
Healthier offensive and defensive lines should make the Devils’ ball-control game plan easier to execute, and a week to rest their legs should make Statesboro’s stable of running backs even more dangerous.
Another benefit of the off week will be the extra time it has provided the SHS defense to prepare.
Greenbrier tries to establish the run, but also utilizes the play-action pass and does both from upwards of ten different formations.
“When a team gives you so many looks, it’s hard to delegate time for the defense to practice against all of them,” said Pennington. “It also means that we’re going to have to recognize what they’re trying to do and adjust immediately instead of waiting until halftime.
“It also helps us that we play Greenbrier so late in the season. We have eight games worth of film, so we’ve seen everything that they have to offer.”
As for the Statesboro offense, it will try to impose its will by way of the run.
The Wolfpack employs a 3-5 scheme, which frees up linebackers to move around and blitz from different angles. The look is designed to create confusion and penetrate into the offensive backfield, but the Devils’ offensive line is up to the task.
“Our number one priority is to eliminate negative plays,” said Pennington. “That kind of defense can be effective, but it also takes some risks. If we execute properly and catch them at the right time, it can lead to big plays on our part.”
With a win, Statesboro will play sub-region A champion Brunswick — which SHS defeated in the season opener — on the road next Friday.
It will also guarantee a spot in the state playoffs and at least one home playoff game.
A Blue Devil loss will mean that Lakeside needs to defeat Evans for SHS to obtain a spot in the region play-in and keep its hopes alive for the state playoffs.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.