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Statesboro, Screven renew rivalry
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    Does it get any better than this on opening weekend?
    Statesboro and Screven County will meet once again tonight, as the Blue Devils travel to Sylvania and Kelly Memorial Stadium to begin their 2007 seasons.
    Statesboro has reeled off three straight wins against their cross-river rivals, in a contest that traditionally sets of the beginning of another season.
    "Every contest we've had, it's always been a very close affair," said SHS coach Steve Pennington. "We've always played early in the year, and opening up, especially, magnifies the intensity and the emotions that go into it."
    The Devils won last year's contest 21-0 at Womack Field and haven't allowed a point to the Gamecocks since 2003.
    "It's an exciting time because it's a rivalry game," said Screven coach Pat Collins. "When you've got two communities that are fairly close and have had recent success it just builds for a good high school rivalry."
    This year both teams are coming off a first-round loss in the state playoffs and are looking for fresh starts in '07.
    "In all honesty it's high time that we play against somebody else," said Pennington. "I think our players are at that point where if we're not playing somebody (else) all of us will pull our hair out."
    Statesboro has plenty of questions to answer tonight on both sides of the ball. The Devils’ offense were shutout in a preseason scrimmage against Emanuel County Institute and their defense has plenty of holes to fill.
    The Gamecocks, on the other hand, return an experienced defense and a tough offensive backfield featuring junior Travis Coles. Wide receiver Darion Carter is always a threat if junior quarterback MJ Johnson has time to throw the ball.
    "Defensively they have a large contingent returning," said Pennington. "There should be a lot of confidence on that side of the ball. On the flip side, with their backfield, it's imperative that we make them play on a long field. We can't give up a big play."
    Statesboro will counter with running backs Nic Lanier and Patrick Jenkins, along with fullback Johnathan Coleman. Quarterback Luke Connell has the ability to make the big play if the Devils decide to open the playbook.
    "Statesboro's multiple with what they're doing," said Collins. "They want you to think they're nothing but a power running team, but Connell is a good passer. They've done a lot of work on their passing game."
    On offense, Screven's task is simple.
    "We got to try to block the best defensive lineman in the nation," said Collins. "I don't think it's an extraordinarily simple scheme — they'll tell you that. It's a simple scheme it's just based on people."
    Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Kelly Memorial Stadium.

     Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.