Statesboro (0-4, 0-2) at Coffee (4-1, 2-1)
7:30 p.m., 102.9 FM
TIME TO STEP UP: While the Devils are still looking for their first win, there have been several solid efforts from the defense. Coffee has run roughshod over most defenses so far this season, so it’s time for the SHS offense to pull its weight. The Trojans have surrendered 20 or more points in three games so far this season and the Devils need to do some damage to stay competitive.
STAYING POSITIVE: The 0-4 hole that the Devils have dug themselves is an entirely new position for everyone wearing blue and white. A trip to Douglas won’t do anything to make things more comfortable, but following Pennington’s goal of ‘improving with each practice and game’ is the only way to climb out of such a rough spot.
RAIN DANCE: Playing in inclement weather is never fun. It puts an added strain on every facet of the game. But it might be a welcome sight for Statesboro. A sloppy field could lead to more conservative play and but the reins on Coffee’s potent offense.
In football, it’s rare to find sympathy for a struggling team.
That holds especially true when the stumbling team in question has handed out loss after loss to other schools over the years.
Unfortunately for the Statesboro Blue Devils, they’ve found themselves in that exact sort of reversal of fortune. Normally a team that is penciled into the state playoff bracket before the first game of the season even kicks off, the Devils (0-4, 0-2 Region 3-AAAAA) are in an uncharacteristic down year as injuries and inexperience are taking their toll in Statesboro’s first season at the Class AAAAA level.
The road doesn’t get any easier this evening as the Devils travel to Douglas for a date with the fifth-ranked Coffee Trojans (4-1, 2-1).
A long road trip and a menacing opponent will make it tough for the Devils to notch their first win of the season. Making it even tougher is the fact that Statesboro must fix some of its own problems before worrying about issues that opponents present.
“Right now, we’re still having to work on us,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “We’ve prepared for Coffee, but a lot of our work is with what we’re doing. The biggest thing that will allow us to grow and improve is for us to execute better and cut out some mistakes we’ve been making.”
The focal point of the Devils’ struggles has been the offense.
Usually a fine-tuned power running machine, a wealth of new faces on the front line and a lack of depth in the backfield has led to much less production so far this season.
Even when the Devils have shown some sort of spark, it has often been followed by a damaging turnover or drive-killing negative plays.
“We’ve got to get over that 50-50 hump,” Pennington said. “Right now, it seems like every time we do something good, we turn around and do something not so good. Hurting ourselves like that is making it very difficult to win.”
Also making it difficult will be Coffee’s juggernaut of an offense.
The key to the Trojans’ attack is that there is no real key.
Senior quarterback Tyree Paulk has connected on 72.6 percent of his throws for 650 yards already this season. Three Coffee receivers enter tonight’s game with over 100 yards and an incredible 12 different Trojans have hauled in a reception.
The ground game isn’t much different.
Three Trojan running backs have over 150 rushing yards, and Paulk makes a fourth.
“They’re just very, very impressive,” Pennington said. “They have so many ways to get to you and they seem to be prepared for whatever defenses teams have thrown at them. We might have some matchups that we like with our offense, but our defense will certainly have its work cut out.”
Panic isn’t a word that is often associated with the Blue Devils, but any playoff hopes will be in that state if an upset doesn’t materialize.
A short week awaits Statesboro before a Thursday game against Richmond Hill next week, making it all the more difficult for the Devils to find a spark to get their season turned around.
One final note on tonight’s matchup — bad weather is expected for much of the day and carrying through game time in Douglas.
When it rains, it pours.