There have been some tough losses and big wins, but Statesboro’s postseason future might come down to one final game.
The Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1 Region 2-AAAA) host Greenbrier (3-5, 2-2) Friday in the final game of the regular season with playoff implications hanging in the balance for both teams.
For Statesboro, it’s been an up-and-down journey.
Winners of their first three games and ranked in the state polls, the Devils suffered an upset at the hands of Liberty County on September 17.
Statesboro quickly regrouped to win its first three sub-region games. The Devils were poised to clinch the top spot out of sub-region B two weeks ago, but fell to Evans.
The loss threatened to keep Statesboro out of the region title hunt, but Effingham County defeated Evans last Friday, and the Devils hold the tiebreaker that will award them the sub-region title with a win this week.
“We’re glad to be in this position,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “We wanted to compete for a region championship heading into the year, and now we’re in that spot.
“The most important thing is to stay focused. We have a lot of things that can be gained from winning this next ballgame, but that’s not why we’re trying to win it. We try to win it because that’s what we do every week.”
A region championship would be nice, but a win this week offers something even better.
The top finishers in each sub-region will play for the title next week in Brunswick — Brunswick High has already clinched the other sub-region — for the top seed out of 2-AAAA in the GHSA state playoffs. The loser of the matchup will receive the No. 2 seed and will have the opportunity to host at least one state playoff game.
The second and third place finishers from each sub-region will also meet up next week — the No. 2 from each sub-region will play the No. 3 team from the opposite sub-region — for the final two spots in the state tournament.
Because of the crowded nature of the standings in their half of the region, the Devils will take the top spot by beating the Wolfpack Friday, but could also fall out of state playoff contention altogether with a loss.
Greenbrier can do no better than second place in the sub-region by beating Statesboro, but has everything to play for since a win this week is the only way for the Wolfpack to make it to the region play-in round.
“We know that Greenbrier is going to be a very hungry team,” said Pennington. “They want this game every bit as much as we do. This has been a very competitive region where any team can win any week. We’re going to need another very good effort to keep going towards our goal.”
This season is very similar to last year for the Blue Devils.
In 2009, Statesboro entered the final week of the regular season with the possibility of finishing in any of the top four spots in its region — which would send it to the state playoffs — or a fifth place finish that would have left the Devils at home.
Statesboro lost its final game and received the No. 4 seed, but thanks to a couple of upsets, could have won the region with a win.
This year, the endgame is a bit simpler. Certain scenarios exist that could keep the Devils in state contention even with a loss to Greenbrier, but a win ensures a spot in the state playoffs, a shot at the region title, and a chance to play its first playoff game in front of their home crowd at Womack Field.
“Obviously, that’s the preferable outcome for us,” said Pennington. “We had a tough loss to Evans last time out, but Effingham helped us out last week and it has given us another chance. Now we just need to go out and get things done.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.