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Ware County works over Statesboro
SHS Football
Statesboro High's Austin Arendes, center, gets redirected by Ware County offensive tackle Eli Cade, right, as he closes in on quarterback Thomas Castellanos during the second quarter Friday. Castellanos used both his arm and his feet to put points on the boart and a stifling effort by the Ware County defense led to a 16-7 victory for the Gators at Womack Field. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

The Statesboro Blue Devils entered Friday’s region matchup with Ware County on a three-game losing streak. In those three games the Blue Devils were within a touchdown early in the fourth, but were unable to get anything going offensively late. 

That streak now stands at four as once again Statesboro was within a touchdown early in the fourth, but two late interceptions did them in as they fell to Ware County 16-7.

The story of the game may have been missed opportunities for the Blue Devils in the first half. Statesboro had the ball inside the Ware County 32-yard line on four different occasions in the first half and came up with no points. The Blue Devils were also 0-for-5 on fourth down conversions in the game.

“Our defense played one heck of a game, they did a great job,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “We had three takeaways in the first half but couldn’t execute offensively .We knew it was going to be tough against their defensive front.”

The Blue Devils squandered their first opportunity early in the game as the Gators fumbled a Statesboro punt, and the Blue Devils took over at the Gators 26-yard line. Statesboro would go for it on fourth down, but would not convert and the Gators took over at the 26.

The Gators proceeded to move down the field and scored later on that drive as quarterback  Thomas Castellano hooked up with Keonta Taylor on a 39-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 Ware County lead with 5:39 left in the first.

The Blue Devils responded with their only scoring drive of the game. Jaylin Roberson reeled off a nice 15-yard run, that was followed by a 38-yard run by Aundrell Grace down to the Ware County one-yard line. Two plays later Roberson busted into the end zone, as the Blue Devils tied the game 7-7 with 1:41 left in the first.

Early in the second quarter Ware County elected to go for it on fourth and inches from their own 15-yard line, Castellano picked up 12 yards, but coughed up the ball. The Blue Devils Jordan Gaines recovered at the Ware County 29-yard line.

The Blue Devil offense stalled from there and Cody Parker came in for a 38-yard field goal which hit the crossbar, and fell short leaving the score 7-7. 

The defense came up with another turnover later in the second quarter, as J.D. Kaiser recovered a Gator fumble at the 32-yard line. The offense was unable to capitalize again as they went for it on fourth down, and Drake Horton’s pass fell incomplete.

Statesboro had one more chance to score points as Horton hit Marcus Brinson for a 30-yard reception to the 24-yard line. Penalties backed Statesboro up, and again the fourth down conversion failed for a 7-7 score going into halftime.

Castellano finally put the Gators on his back midway through the third as Ware County mounted a drive. Carrying the ball himself on five out of six straight plays, Castellano capped the scoring drive with a six-yard touchdown run, as Ware County grabbed a 14-7 lead with 6:51 left in the third.

Early in the fourth Horton was picked off at midfield. The Statesboro defense would hold Ware County in check the rest of the game. The Gators biggest play in the fourth came after Statesboro was pinned at their own two- yard line after a Ware County punt. On the second play from scrimmage Roberson was tackled in the end zone by Laderic Casetellano for a safety, and a 16-7 Ware County lead.

The Blue Devils never really mounted another drive, as they were limited to under 170 yards of total offense and only six first downs. Statesboro quarterback Drake Horton was under fire all night from the Ware County defense, and was 5-22 through the air with two interceptions.

“I’m going to take this one offenseily on me,” Kaiser said. “We have a bye week, and we need to find a way for our offense to help our defense out. We are just not very good when folks make us throw the ball, and we’ve had to throw the ball around a lot lately. We have two weeks to try and regroup and get ready for South Effingham.”

Statesboro drops to 3-4 and 0-2 in region play. Up next the Blue Devils have a bye week next Friday before getting back to action the following Friday at South Effingham.