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Undefeated Statesboro hits the road to Guyton

Statesboro (7-0, 1-0) at South Effingham (4-3, 0-1)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM

    The Statesboro Blue Devils are relieved to finally have a normal run-up to game week as they prepare for a road tilt at South Effingham tonight.
    The fifth-ranked Devils (7-0, 1-0 Region 3-AAAA) had last Friday off. The week before that was filled with homecoming activities for Statesboro while the days leading up to the Oct. 4 matchup saw Blue Devils players out of class for fall break.
    “We’re definitely excited to have a game to play this week,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “And I think we’ll be ready. There are a lot of things that you can worry about when the routine changes and how you’ll play afterwards. After years of coaching, I’ve found that those things only tend to pop up when you worry too much about them.”
    Statesboro should have no problem in cranking things back up as there is still plenty to play for. Aside from trying to keep their undefeated season going and possibly moving up in the rankings, the Devils need a win tonight to ensure that they’re still on track to compete for a region title.
    Even one regular season slip up — as SHS found out the hard way in a loss to Wayne County last season — can prevent a trip to the region championship game.
    Across the field will be the Mustangs (4-3, 0-1), who are desperately trying to stay in the postseason picture. South Effingham dropped its sub-region opener to Wayne County last week.
Another loss tonight would put the Mustangs in a must-win situation against Liberty County next week.
    Of course, the Mustangs won’t be overly anxious. They were in the exact same situation after losing to Statesboro last season before promptly running off four consecutive wins and reaching the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
    “I expect both teams to treat this like a must-win,” Pennington said. “I know we will be. (South) Effingham might need this for the postseason. We have a goal of trying to win the region. We feel like we need to win this one to achieve that goal.”
    To move a step closer to a region title, the Devils will hope that their defense —which has allowed the second fewest points per game in Class AAAA — continues to shut down the opposition.
    The Mustangs will try to crack the Devil defense with a balanced attack. Patrick Brown (557 yards) leads the ground game while three others have more than 100 yards rushing this season.
    Tyler Hagan directs an efficient passing game and has thrown for 1,174 yards this season. Playmaking receivers Taylor Donovan and Jake Elliot will present the SHS defense with a new look.
    “South Effingham is very good at mixing up its play calling and its formations,” Pennington said. “They try to get mismatches. We have a lot of defenders that can do multiple things, but it will be a mental challenge. Just getting into the right position will be big for us.”
    Offensively, the Devils aren’t looking to change a thing.
    Statesboro has scored first in all but one game this season and is tough to catch once it gets ahead. Early games featured big plays from the Devils’ emerging passing attack, but Statesboro has also proven that it can pound away with its traditional ball control scheme.
    Blue Devil quarterback Colin Chance and favorite target Joe Corless are itching for more big plays after a week of rest, and Statesboro’s stable of running backs and steadily improving offensive line is ready to put the game on ice if given the chance.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.