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What Happened to Statesboro Football?

Without a doubt as I travel the state of Georgia speaking to civic or sports booster clubs, the question of “What Happened to Statesboro Football” is always asked. For the uninformed, up until the past three or four years, one of the most feared programs in Georgia prep football was the Statesboro High School Blue Devils.

This proud program won a state championship in 2001, beating Dalton 51-13. They repeated that feat in 2005 by downing Northside Warner Robins, 20-17 at Paulson Stadium on the campus of Georgia Southern University. There is more success. In 2002 the Blue Devils went 8-3, then 11-3-1 as the Class 4A runner up to Marist in 2003, and then 14-1 the very next year as the runner-up to Warner Robins before capturing their second title of the decade. 

The wins flowed like rushing water for several years, 9-2, 7-4, 11-2, 6-5, and then came a heartbreaking last play loss to Chattahoochee, 22-21 in the 2010 Class 4A semifinals. The wins didn’t stop there … until 2014. After a 10-2 campaign in 2013, the wins all but vanished. The won-loss record became 2-8, 2-8, 0-10 and last season 2-7.

 

In a recent interview, I asked current Statesboro head coach Jeff Kaiser what happened to the Blue Devils. “I don’t know if anyone can answer that to be totally honest,” said Kaiser, who is in his second season at the helm of the rebuilding program. “It was like the program just dropped off of a cliff … it was as if someone flipped a switch. I don’t know if anyone can explain it.”

Kaiser is a former Blue Devil player and assistant coach. He played his college football at the University of Georgia and had a successful run as the head coach at Tattnall County before returning to his high school alma mater a year ago.

Statesboro showed tremendous improvement a year ago, though a 2-7 mark doesn’t indicate that so much. “We lost four games a year ago that we were leading in the fourth quarter, said Kaiser. “It’s a process. We’ve got to learn how to win again here … and I think we are headed in the right direction.”

 Kaiser has brought back two former assistants who enjoyed the Blue Devils’ success in the past, defensive coordinator Jack Webb and offensive coordinator Greg Hill. “One thing that happened through the years is that several coaches retired or moved on to other programs. I’m blessed with a good staff … and that helps,” said Kaise

The Blue Devils have 70 varsity players and they have worked diligently in the weight room since Kaiser returned. “We’re not where we need to be just yet, but we’re getting there. It’s going to take a total commitment from the community, the players and the coaching staff for us to return to those glory days. We’ve just got to get a lot tougher,” he said.

The Blue Devils open their 2018 season on August 24 when they meet Greenbrier on the road in Augusta. They took the first step to success of the 2018 season when they downed long-time rival foe the Swainsboro Tigers, 7-0 last Friday night, in a preseason scrimmage.

Mark Sept. 14 on your calendar; that’s when GPB-TV’s Football Friday’s in Georgia returns to the road. The opener features perennial power Carrollton at two-time defending 5A champion Rome. Join the GPB-TV Sports team for all of the action!

 

Tommy Palmer

Tommy Palmer is a veteran Radio/Television Broadcaster who began his broadcast career at the age of 16. Palmer is an Associated Press award-winning sports broadcaster who has broadcast over 900 sporting events in his career including the GHSA... more