An undefeated record was just about all Evans and Statesboro had in common when they squared off at John Pierce Blanchard Stadium on Friday.
Statesboro entered as an established program with a resume that included three state championship appearances in the last four years. Evans came in with the same amount of wins in its first five games this season as the previous two years combined.
The team new to winning overcame the old powerhouse in a close game that saw Evans take a 10-7 win. It was the type of victory perfectly set up for a homecoming night.
"Since I've been here it's definitely the best win," Evans football coach Marty Jackson said. "The win over Laney a few years ago was nice, but it wasn't a region win and didn't have the region implications this one had."
Those region implications include a Knights team that now sits atop the Region 3-AAAA standings with an undefeated 5-0 region record. That fifth region win had to come against one of the top defenses in the region, led by Statesboro's Deangelo Tyson.
The big defensive lineman came into the game as one of the top-ranked defensive tackles in the nation. He was almost a non-factor Friday night.
"He's a great ball player. He's got the size and strength, but he didn't do much against us tonight," Evans quarterback Kevin Millward said. "It helped because our offensive line was able to double-team him a lot. He didn't bring much pressure."
That was one of many reasons why the Knights now stand as the only undefeated team in Region 3-AAAA, with a 6-0 record. After trailing Statesboro 7-3 for most of the game, the Evans offense finally woke up with a fourth-quarter drive for a game-winning score.
"We started making plays. That's what our offense is based on - making those big plays," Millward said. "Our offensive line did a great job giving me time at the end of the game. They weren't tired. They gave me great time to throw it."
Millward found receiver Jonathan Nicely five times in that final drive, including a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Evans' defense stopped two late Statesboro drives to ensure the win. The Knights held the Blue Devils on fourth-and 28 on their own 49 yard line, but Millward fumbled on Evans' next play to give the ball back to Statesboro with 28 seconds left.
"We thought we were running the safest play we could," Jackson said. "They had all three of their time outs left so we couldn't just take a knee because we'd have one of the best punt-blocking teams in the state coming after us."
Evans' defense saved the day again as Statesboro failed to score in the final seconds of the game. That last Blue Devil push ended with a 30-yard field goal attempt that missed its mark with nine seconds left. Millward took a knee one time to run out the clock for the three-point victory.
The road doesn't get any easier for Evans (6-0, 5-0). The Knights' next three games are against opponents with a combined 12-6 record this year. It starts with a rare Thursday night game at Brunswick (4-2, 3-2) this week.
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