The long-anticipated return of the Erk Russell Classic will see things kick off Saturday at Paulson Stadium. The 10th annual event will begin Saturday at 6:00 with Macon County facing off against Clinch County and Statesboro and Wayne County will hit the field for a 9:00 start afterward.
The Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets were supposed to headline the bill last year before things were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
A couple months ago it looked like things were on the upswing and COVID concerns may be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, things have changed over the past few weeks and both teams will be missing players out with COVID when they hit the field Saturday night.
“It is frustrating for sure, but I think it’s safe to say most coaches in the state dealing with the same challenges,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “The day of a ballgame you could get the news that multiple players have come down with it so you just keep your fingers crossed and do what you can do. We have a implemented a plan to help create some depth to try and prevent getting in a situation where you have to put a player who is not ready physically or mentally to start a game.”
Unlike last season the Blue Devils were able to get a scrimmage under their belts against Metter to help prepare them for Saturday’s season opener against Wayn County.
“We did a lot of good things offensively except finish,” said Kaiser. “In between the two 10-yard lines we moved the ball well and executed well. We had three penalties and two turnovers that cost us twice inside the one-yard line. We have emphasized finishing and staying loose and not getting tight when we get close to scoring. Defensively I wouldn’t say we had a slow start, but it took us a while to get where we needed to be. I think we did a great job of adjusting at halftime and came out like I thought we could for the second half.”
As for Saturday's game there is a lot of excitement from players and families to get a chance to play and watch a high school game at Paulson Stadium which is a place many of them have been through the years watching Georgia Southern.
“It is a great opportunity, and our kids are really looking forward to playing at Paulson,” said Kaiser. “It should be a great atmosphere for a high school football game especially with such a formidable team like Wayne County to go up against.”
The Yellow Jackets play in arguably the toughest region in Class 5-A. Last season they were 3-8 and nearly pulled off a huge upset in the first round of the state against No. 1 seeded Jones County. The Jackets return five starters on offense and five on defense and are led by 6-5, 205-pound quarterback Tommy Weatherspoon III and an offensive line that averages 6-4 and 290 pounds.
“Wayne County’s shortcomings last year were simply because of the region they play in,” said Kaiser. “You could legitimately say four of the five teams were top 10 teams. Wayne lost to Jones County on a very controversial call that could have seen them come out on top. They are one of the biggest high school football teams you will see. We will have to use all parts of the field offensively. We have to stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically and create some space for our athletes to run in and protect the football.”
The Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets are scheduled to kich off Saturday night at 9:00 at Paulson Stadium.