Statesboro and Effingham County were putting on quite a display before Dequan Daniels ran away with the show.
The Blue Devils’ sophomore running back racked up 201 yards and scored three Devil touchdowns as Statesboro earned a 28-14 victory over the Rebels Friday night at Womack Field.
“I just kept running hard,” said Daniels, who set a career high in rushing yards Friday. “At halftime, the coaches told us to keep pounding. The offensive line was blocking great all night and gave all of us running backs big holes.”
After a tight first half, Daniels broke off scoring runs of 28 and 58 yards in the third quarter to give Statesboro a cushion.
The game started out as a defensive struggle as each team was able to clog up running lanes and slow the attack of each offense. The Devils (5-1, 2-0 Region 2-AAAA) and Rebels (3-3, 1-1) combined for just two first downs over the first four possessions – all ending in punts.
Statesboro finally took the upper hand late in the first quarter.
Starting from its own 31 yard line, the Blue Devil offensive line was finally able to create some running room. Several big gains on first down plays allowed Statesboro to keep its foot on the pedal and Dequan Daniels found room off the right side for a 21 yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to give the Devils a 7-0 lead.
Effingham also started moving the ball on its next drive, but the Statesboro defense stiffened up just in time.
A series of gashing runs by Dyone Youmans and Aaron Griffen advanced the Rebel offense to the Statesboro 10 and looked prepared to tie the game before the Devils dug in.
Youmans was stuffed on first-and-goal and sophomore defensive back Ben Roberts broke up what looked to be a sure touchdown pass on second down.
Griffin scrambled in for an apparent touchdown on the next play, but a holding penalty nullified the score and Roberts broke up another pass on third down. Effingham
attempted to salvage some points with a field goal, but George Roberson’s 36 yard attempt sailed wide right and Statesboro retained its lead.
“That was very big for us,” said SHS coach Pennington. “Any time you can get a lead at halftime, you put pressure on the other team and force them to do something.”
Statesboro broke the game open in the third quarter.
The Blue Devil defense clamped down to force a three-and-out after Effingham received the second half’s opening kickoff and the Devil offense wasted no time in capitalizing.
Daniels raced in on the second play of the drive for a 14-0 lead, and when Effingham’s Mike Hamilton scored from nine yards out on the Rebels’ next drive to cut it to 14-7, Daniels responded with his 58-yarder that broke the Rebels’ backs.
Aaron Lester added the final Statesboro score with a 2-yard touchdown plunge in the fourth quarter.
The Statesboro defense continued to dominate throughout the remainder of the game.
The Devils forced a turnover on a Devin Budget interception early in the fourth quarter, and again when a fake punt by the Rebels was sniffed out and quickly hunted down.
Effingham did not cross into SHS territory until a 55 yard strike from Griffin to Mike Hamilton late in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand.
“That was a tremendous effort by our defense all night,” said Pennington. “They made some big plays and gave the offense good field position, and that stop at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half helped to turn the tide in our favor.”
With the win, the Devils take over sole possession of the “A” sub-region in Region 2-AAAA.
Next week, Statesboro hits the road to take on South Effingham.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.