At Statesboro, winning is a top priority. Anything short of that is considered not living up to expectations. Under the watchful eyes of head coach Steve Pennington, the Blue Devils have done just that: win. In his nine years of experience at Statesboro Pennington has clearly lived up to expectations, having guided the Blue Devils to nine consecutive playoff appearances and also accounting for a perfect 15-0 record and state title in 2005.
This season, Pennington has emphasized that his preseason No. 7 squad has high expectations and the team's eyes set on the prize-another state title.
"We have a theme here at Stateboro about our outlook and expectations--we expect to contend for a state title," said Pennington. "And I say that not in gist or lightly, but that's our expectations regardless of what we've got coming back or what we've lost last year. That is our mindset and so we go into the year with the expectations and the outlook that is very positive."
Pennington clearly expects greatness out of his players and it just so happens that the Blue Devils will be returning quite a few seniors this year. Statesboro will also be welcoming back seven starters on offense to run the same power wishbone formation as well as returning six starters to partake in the 50 defense.
"We have one of our best senior classes that we've had in quite awhile," said Pennington. "Best in the sense that we've got good numbers, we've got people in key positions, but more importantly the quality of people and the quality of the character of the seniors that we've got. That gives us optimism to meet those expectations."
Leadership is an intangible that many teams lack. In the case of the Blue Devils, they definitely have a true leader in offensive tackle John Underwood, who stands at a staggering 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. Underwood is a player who only played in one offensive play in 2012 before tearing his ACL, so he has much to prove in 2013.
Underwood is a player that Pennington raved about.
"He kind of characterizes what our team is all about. In essence if you could ever have an assistant coach as a student in high school, he would be it," said Pennington. "He's the anchor of our offensive line and our inspirational leader."
D-1 schools like Georgia, Clemson and Auburn have shown interest in Underwood, but no offers have been sent his way. Pennington believes that these programs want to see how Underwood's knee holds up this season.
It may seem somewhat clichéd, but many teams, at least the great ones, want to treat every game on its schedule like it is their last. With the Blue Devils, they will essentially do just that, approach each game with same mindset and mentality. However, Pennington did address the game at No. 2 Burke County on Sept. 20 as a measuring stick in order to gauge where the team is and what the team must improve on; win that game and the sky is the limit.