Statesboro will try to keep up its hot start tonight as the Blue Devils (2-0) travel to Reidsville for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Tattnall County.
The Devils are still riding high after last week’s comeback win over Washington County, but face another tough test in the Battle Creek Warriors (2-0) — the third consecutive Statesboro opponent that reached the state playoffs last season.
“It’s another tremendous challenge that we have before us,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “Each game presents new opportunities and challenges, and this week is no exception.”
Tattnall comes into tonight’s game on the heels of an impressive 47-14 win over Screven County last week.
The Warriors utilize a spread attack on offense that is averaging 37.5 points per game. Statesboro faced a similar look in its first game against Brunswick, but Tattnall will likely keep the ball on the ground more often than the pass-happy Pirates.
“Tattnall is very well versed in running its offense,” said Pennington. “We might be a little bigger, but they’ll probably be a little quicker. We need to be prepared physically, mentally and emotionally.”
In addition to the Warriors, Statesboro is also going to be battling injuries.
Leading rusher Michael Summers suffered a high ankle sprain last week and likely will not dress for tonight’s game. Senior Aaron Lester — who rushed for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Washington County — will get the start at tailback in place of Summers.
Several Statesboro defenders are also dealing with injuries, but the Devils may be cautious in rushing players back onto the field with sub-region play beginning in two weeks.
“Our players’ safety is always the first concern on whether they’ll play or not,” said Pennington. “We have some guys that we might try to rest a little more, but we really want to win and have our best players out there at all times. We’ll just have to make judgments on an individual basis.”
With the depth chart depleted, Statesboro will have to get good performances from all of its starters.
Facing a team from the AA classification would usually make for a big disparity in numbers favoring the Devils. That won’t be the case tonight as the Warriors have a huge roster packing the sideline.
“We have about 95 on our roster, but Tattnall’s got about 90, so there isn’t much advantage there,” said Pennington. “(Tattnall coach) Jeff Kaiser gets a lot of the credit for that. He’s got a very good system going over there and gets everyone excited, so they always have a big turnout for players.”
Key to getting another win will be the Devils’ ability to hang on to the ball.
Last week, Statesboro lost two critical fumbles that nearly cost it the game. Summers fumbled into the end zone for a Washington County touchback and Dequan Daniels was separated from the ball after picking up the yardage on a fourth down conversion in Washington territory.
Statesboro was also able to force turnovers as the defense stepped up to grab two big second half interceptions to keep the Devils in the game.
Another solid defensive effort and some better ball control on offense could have the Devils dancing at 3-0.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.