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Metter muscles past South Effingham
Jeremiah Washington
South Effingham’s Jeremiah Washington (88) and Williams Christmas (14) fight blockers while trying to tackle Metter running back Jacion Lanier at The Jungle on Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

 METTER — South Effingham delivered several offensive blows in its season opener Friday night but none of them buckled the Metter Tigers.

After falling behind early and leading just 29-24 at halftime, the Tigers (2-0) seized control and cruised to a 62-31 victory at The Jungle. They racked up 590 total yards, including 484 on the ground.

“That’s a good football team,” South Effingham coach Nathan Clark said while assessing the outcome. “They threw a lot of things at us, including an unbalanced line.”

Clark’s team got off to a promising start against the 2020 Class A finalist. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Mustangs advanced 80 yards in just over four minutes to take a 7-0 lead. The drive, which featured a couple third-down completions by sophomore quarterback Kaden De Genaro, ended with a 20-yard touchdown catch by Joel Laldee.

It took Metter barely two minutes to answer South Effingham’s opening salvo, however. Its first possession ended with a 44-yard scoring run by Josh Kelly.

The Tigers broke a 7-7 tie early in the second period, getting an 18-yard scoring pass from Trey Hall. They scored again just over two minutes later when Kelly reached the end zone from 13 yards out.

Kelly’s second touchdown was set up by the first of three interceptions.

“That’s to be expected when you have a young quarterback,” Clark said. “There are going to be some growing pains.”

South Effingham interrupted Metter’s scoring spree with 8:29 left before halftime. Its three-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, capped by a three-run run by Jakeim Leeks, featured a 60-yard run by Jamari Fields.

“Jamari is the fastest guy on our team,” Clark said.

The Mustangs forged a 21-21 tie a couple minutes later after forcing the Tigers into punt formation for the first time. The snap went awry and defensive lineman recovered the ball just inside the Metter 10 and carried it to the 5. 

On the next play, Leeks tallied his second touchdown run.

Metter wasted no time in reclaiming control. A 55-yard scoring jaunt by Ethan Oglesby and two-point catch by Danny Cheley put the Tigers on top 29-21.

South Effingham managed to cut the 29-24 when Liam Rickman booted a 33-yard field goal with 2:04 left in the half.

Metter almost scored again before intermission but Hall was pushed out of bounds after a long run to the South Effingham 1 as time expired.

Buoyed by the last-second stop, the Mustangs came out fired up for the start of the third period. The Tigers, however, cooled their enthusiasm by methodically marching 80 yards for a touchdown, a three-yard run by Antwan Coney.

The Tigers reached the end zone four more times in the second half. Two of the scores were set up by interceptions.

In the final 16 minutes, the Mustangs surrendered a 39-yard touchdown pass and scoring runs of 16, 2 and 5 yards.

South Effingham posted one second-half score. It came on a perfect 70-yard pass from De Genaro to Fields.

 The Mustangs finished with 308 total yards. De Genaro passed for 184, completing 11 of 23 attempts with two touchdowns.

Fields led South Effingham in rushing with 84 yards on seven attempts.

The Mustangs are set to visit Appling County (2-0) on Friday. The Pirates are under the direction of first-year coach Jordan Mullis, who replaced Rick Tomberlin.

“They are still very good but they are doing some different things offensively,” Clark said. “It probably won’t be (the power running game) that we saw last year.”

The Pirates rushed for 312 yards in a 42-7 win over South Effingham in 2020.