College and high schools are in the midst of their dead week and will be back in the weight room and practice fields next week. The start of the 2021 football season is now less than two months away and the Statesboro High Blue Devils are looking to make it past the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Blue Devils finished the 2020 season with a record of 4-7 but were able to advance to the state playoffs for the third straight year. The Blue Devils ended the regular season winning three of their last four games and were the No. 4 seed in the state playoffs where they lost to Evans 42-21.
The Blue Devils were able to get in 10 regular season games last year but were scheduled to open the season in the Erk Russell Classic against Wayne County which was cancelled. This year the event is back on the calendar for August 21 and head coach Jeff Kaiser is excited for his team and coaches for a chance to play in Paulson Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be able to play there and in what should be a great atmosphere,” said Kaiser. “We were disappointed to miss out on that chance last year, and for it to be against a good rival of ours in Wayne County makes it more special. They are always a great football team and hopefully folks will turn out for this one.”
Following the Erk Russell Classic matchup with Wayne County the Blue Devils have a week off before opening up their home schedule hosting Swainsboro on Sept. 3. The Blue Devils lost to the Tigers last year 12-6 in a defensive battle.
“The size of the two schools is a little different than what they once were but we know they will always have a competitive team,” said Kaiser. “It is a great rival for Statesboro with a rich history of playing each other so we would like to always keep them on our schedule.”
Next up for the Blue Devils will be a trip to Warner Robbins on Sept. 10 for a matchup against the always tough Houston County Bears. The Bears beat the Blue Devils 23-18 last year and coach Kaiser is ready for a return date in a familiar stadium.
“They play in the same stadium where we have played Veterans High School in the past, so we are familiar with the location,” said Kaiser. “We aren’t really sure what kind of a team they have coming back, but they are traditionally pretty tough to beat.”
The only non-region game Statesboro won in 2020 was a 33-13 victory over Liberty County, which was one of only four teams the Panthers played the entire regular season. The Blue Devils and Panthers square off on Sept. 17.
“Liberty is another team we like to keep on our schedule,” said Kaiser. “They are within a decent drive, and it allows both fan bases the chance to go see the games and not have to go too far. They are historically a very athletic team and should be a lot different situation playing them this year as opposed to last season.”
After a bye week, the region schedule sees the Blue Devils jump right into the deep end of the pool as they open with last year’s region runners up in the Richmond Hill Wildcats on Oct. 1. A couple of things should help the Blue Devils this time around as the game is at home and against a very different looking football team.
“We think it will be a different dynamic region wise as they lose 20 of their 22 starters from a year ago to graduation,” said Kaiser. “I’m sure they will try and reload rather than rebuild and we still expect them to be very strong.”
Things don’t get any easier the next week for Statesboro as they host the Brunswick Pirates on Oct. 8. Last year the Blue Devils were in the game until the Pirates pulled away late winning 38-18.
“I believe Brunswick could be the toughest team in the region this year considering what they return,” said Kaiser. “They have a lot of returning players on both sides of the ball and should compete for the region title.”
The rest of the schedule includes a road game at Bradwell on Oct. 15, then their home finale on Oct. 22 against South Effingham. The Blue Devils wrap up the regular season with back-to-back road games at Effingham County and at Glynn Academy.
“We have new coaches this year at Bradwell and Effingham County,” said Kaiser. “Glynn Academy loses their four-star quarterback but should still be pretty tough and I expect South Effingham to continue to improve under coach Nathan Clark.”