The Statesboro Blue Devils have advanced to the state playoffs in each of the last three seasons, but have been unable to take the next step of winning a state playoff game. Friday the No. 4 seeded Blue Devils traveled to No. 1 seeded Evans and fell behind early 21-0. Statesboro was unable to fight back from that deficit, as their season came to an end falling 42-21.
“I’m proud of our kids and the way they fought adversity all season long,” said Kaiser. “It’s not Statesboro football, and it’s not what everybody wants, but I couldn’t be any prouder of these boys.”
The Blue Devil offense was hit by penalties that erased a couple of big plays in the first quarter, while their defense was unable to get the Knights off the field. Holding calls negated Statesboro's only first down runs of the first quarter. The Blue Devils didn’t get their first, first down of the first half until there was 6:40 left in the second quarter.
“Penalties killed us in the first half,” said Kaiser. “We had a couple of big plays, but we ended up getting behind the chains, and behind on the scoreboard which forced us to do things we don’t like to do offensively.”
While the Statesboro offense struggled, the Knights looked sharp, as they piled up 330 yards rushing. They went on a 12-play, 65-yard drive to open the game, and capped the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown run by Jofranstar Graham for a 7-0 lead. Graham finished the game with 181-yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“We had to make some pretty extensive adjustments defensively,” said Kaiser. “They executed very well on offense. They have some really good athletes over there.”
Evans extended the lead to 14-0 on a 39-yard touchdown run by Joseph Hamilton for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Knights added an 8-yard touchdown by Llyeton Lackey to go up 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Statesboro finally got on the board just before the half. A couple of long runs by quarterback Ames Rackleff, and Jalin Mikell, would lead to a 2-yard Mikell touchdown which cut the lead to 21-7 at the half.
The Statesboro defense forced the first Evans punt of the game in the third quarter, and the Blue Devil offense marched down field, and capped a 9-play drive with a 2-yard Aundrell Grace touchdown to make it a one-possession game at 21-14.
The momentum quickly shifted back to the Knights as they scored on their first play from scrimmage. Graham went 80-yards down the near sidelines and extended the lead back to 14 at 28-14.
The score remained 28-14 until with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter Hamilton intercepted a Rackleff pass and went 61-yards for the touchdown to extend the lead to 35-14. Evans added a 38-yard touchdown by Graham with 34 seconds left in the game. Statesboro closed the scoring on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Rackleff to James Flag for the final points of the game.
“This is a great group of seniors that have been with us since the ninth grade,” said Kaiser. “I’m very proud of all of them and I hate to see them go. We will come back on Monday though, and start getting ready for next year.”