Statesboro, Tucker to play on Neighborhood TV in Class 5A

As the first round of the GHSA football state championships kick off this Friday, Statesboro and Tucker will square off at 7:30 p.m. on Neighborhood TV in Adams Stadium in Atlanta. Tucker enters the Class 5A playoffs with a 6-4 record, and suffered a narrow 24-23 loss to Arabia Mountain last week that resulted in the Lions getting the two seed.

The Tigers, who claimed state titles back in 2008 and 2011 (both in Class 4A), have not made it out of the first round since 2017. Statesboro comes in at 3-7 after a tough non-region and region schedule that saw the Blue Devils play Glynn Academy, Effingham County, Wayne County, Burke County, Coffee, and Ware County. Statesboro, which has claimed five state titles in program history (1956 (tie), 1957, 1966, 2001 and 2005), hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2013. However, head coach Matt Dobson has led the Blue Devils to the playoffs in his first year as head coach and brings optimism with him.

“Coffee is No. 1 in the state and undefeated. Ware County is the defending state champion and is having another heck of a year. Both are talented and well-coached football teams. Even though we lost those games and scores may not show it, we competed hard in those games,” said Dobson.

“If you look at our non-region schedule, we played Effingham County who won Region 2-6A. We played Glynn Academy who finished runner-up in that region. We also played Wayne County and Burke County who were playoff teams in 4A,” said Dobson. “We have played a really good schedule and 8-of-11 teams we played are in the playoffs including our scrimmage. We feel battle-tested.”

Kamron Mikell, a four-star athlete for Statesboro, is a player to watch in this one on both sides of the ball. Mikell is one of the top-rated players in the Class of 2024 and has been the starting quarterback for the Blue Devils since midseason. Mikell is a three-time state qualifier in the 100-meter dash and clocked one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the National Combine for 247Sports.

“I think what is special about Kamron is the consistency in the way he works. He never misses a workout and never misses a practice. He is always here and always shows up,” said Dobson.
“He is a consistent worker and has some abilities that a lot of people don’t have. Number one is his elite speed. You get the ball in his hands at any point and he is going for a touchdown. Friday night he broke one for a 70-yard touchdown run. He just has that elite speed that makes him a difference-maker.”

Tucker has a quarterback who went viral earlier this season against Stephenson for his massive stature and cannon arm. In the viral play, Jamar Graham runs for a touchdown and trucks a Stephenson defender for an easy touchdown. Graham has championship experience and played for 3A powerhouse Cedar Grove before moving to Tucker. He is a force on the ground and can light you up through the air. Tucker also has one of the better offensive lines in the state that can push you around.

“Offensive line wise they are big and they also can present matchup problems with their size,” said Dobson. “You have to match the physicality in the trenches there. Also, their quarterback is 6-foot-8, 240 and can throw it a mile. He is hard to tackle and hard to get sacks on.”

Offensively for Statesboro, Raylin Grant has also had a big impact. Grant has been a standout on the offensive side of the ball this season for Statesboro and a go-to weapon in the passing game. It’s crazy to imagine he is still learning the position after coming over from basketball a few seasons ago.

“Offensively, our best receiver has been Raylin Grant,” said Dobson. “Grant is a kid who hasn’t played football here in the past few years. He was a basketball player. He is a 6-1, 175-pound receiver and you can just see the way he plays the game that he has some of those basketball skills. He is really good at going up and getting the football with his great jumping ability. He is pretty physical too, especially as a blocker, and then once he catches the ball he can break tackles.”

The battle to watch in this game is in the trenches, to see how successful Statesboro will be in protecting its quarterback and establishing the run. Standout junior offensive tackle Adrian James will have the task of blocking one of the best edge rushers in the state in C.J. Jackson, who is committed to LSU. Jackson is a dominant force on the defensive line and can create havoc in the opposing offensive backfield. He has 11 sacks this season for Tucker.

“On the offensive line, we have a junior tackle named Adrian James who is playing primarily right tackle for us. He is our top lineman and is just playing at a real high level,” said Dobson.
“He’s a 6-2, 330-pound tackle. He missed some time in the middle of the year with a minor knee injury, but he’s been back the last three weeks and has played at a really high level.”

Statesboro is 3-0 all-time against Tucker and won its last matchup 15-14 back in 2004. To watch the fourth-ever matchup between these two programs, tune in to Neighborhood TV this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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