Statesboro has been on the losing end of quite a few heartbreaking games over the past few years. Friday the Blue Devils put up a heck of a fight coming back from a 21-0 halftime deficit to No. 5 ranked Burke County as they took a 32-28 lead late in the fourth. Burke was able to score on a 2-yard run by Charlie Dorsey with less than a minute to play and won 35-28, but unlike some of the games in which the Blue Devils have let one get away, team morale seemed high Friday's effort.
“The fight our kids showed out here means a lot to me,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “We made a few adjustments and put two ball carriers in the backfield instead of a running back and a blocker and it worked well. Our kids understand you have to play four quarters and I’m excited about where this team is heading.”
Trailing 28-7 late in the third quarter Statesboro scored four straight unanswered touchdowns to grab a 32-28 lead with just over five minutes to play. The Blue Devils scored three of those touchdowns in under seven minutes.
The defense helped start the late third quarter rally as A.J. Eason helped strip the ball from Dorsey deep in Statesboro territory and returned it inside the Burke 10-yard line. A penalty brough the ball back to the 25 but a few plays later Elijah Wells looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he took off up the middle on a 17-yard score to cut the lead to 28-13 as the extra point failed.
That score held up into the fourth when the Blue Devil special teams came up with the big play. Pinned deep and forced to punt Caleb Tisby broke free and grabbed the ball off the punter’s foot and went 25-yards for the touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and the lead was cut to 28-19 with 11:48 to play.
The Statesboro defense once again managed to hold the Bears and the Blue Devils continued to attack the middle of the Burke County defense. Wells broke free on a 32-yard run into Bear territory, and then Jordan Lovett went up the middle 26-yards for a Statesboro touchdown. Michael Crews extra point cut the lead to 28-26 with 8:00 to play.
The Statesboro defense forced Burke County to punt on their next possesion and again the offense scored quickly. Lovett ran through a hole up the middle and found nothing but green grass ahead as he went 44-yards for a touchdown and Statesboro led for the first time in the game 32-28 after the 2-point conversion failed again.
With under five minutes to play Burke County went on a 62-yard drive aided by a Statesboro personal foul and also converted on a fourth and six with 3:35 left to keep their drive alive. The Bears capped off the drive with a 2-yard run by Dorsey with :54 to play.
Statesboro managed to get into Bear territory, but an illegal crack back block after a nice run by Kam Mikell brought the ball back into their own territory. A Mikell Hail Mary pass on the final play was intercepted to end the game.
“I don’t think we had a lot of confidence coming in offensively,” said Kaiser. “We knew they had a strong offense but I think the way we fought out here tonight gets me excited about coming back to practice next week and getting ready to open up region play in a couple weeks.”
Burke County opened a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Marshall Flowers. On their ensuing possession Statesboro drove downfield and got inside the Burke County 20-yard line but ended up going for it on fourth and 10 and Mikell was intercepted. The Bears added a pair of second quarter touchdowns including one after converting on fourth and 16 and took a 21-0 halftime lead.
Statesboro responded early in the third quarter as Mikell hit James Flagg down the near sidelines for a 59-yard scoring strike. The Bears once again answered on a 5-yard run by A’Merre Williams to grab a 28-7 lead.
The loss drops Statesboro to 1-4 on the season while Burke County improves to 5-0. Up next the Blue Devils have a bye week before returning to action Oct. 7 at Greenbrier to open region play.