The high school football season is over now, but the Effingham County Rebels can consider themselves winners when it comes to class.
A week and a half ago, in their final home game of the season, the Rebels won a tough 7-0 game against the visiting Lakeside-Evans Panthers. On the game’s final play, the Panthers resorted to trickery and deception. Ordinarily, that’s part of the plan for most teams.
But Lakeside stooped to just plain ole cheating — after the ball was snapped, the Panthers had a player run off the field and ran another player in his stead onto the field. That’s not allowed under the rules.
As it was, the Rebels intercepted the pass, which was intended for the ineligible player.
The infraction was uncovered when Rebels coaches were reviewing the game tape, a common practice as coaches try to determine what went right and what didn’t from the previous game. They saw something was wrong, very wrong.
They alerted the Lakeside-Evans administration about what happened. Effingham County High officials did not file a formal complaint with the Georgia High School Association, the governing body for interscholastic competition, nor did they ask that the school mete out any punishment to the coach. They left that decision up with the Lakeside administration.
It is reminiscent of what happened 20 years ago, when Evans High was discovered to be using a headset to communicate with its quarterback in a playoff game with Effingham, a game the Knights won. The Rebels protested and the GHSA ruled in their favor, sending them to the state semifinals against Carver-Columbus and eventually into the finals against Morrow.
The Rebels coaches and administrators were gracious winners. The Lakeside-Evans Panthers finished 3-7, so even a win over Effingham would not have gotten them into the playoffs, much less a winning record. Coach Grooms blatantly broke the rules to win what was in essence a meaningless game for the Panthers, though the game at the time meant everything to the Rebels.
That’s just shameful, and the Lakeside administration and Columbia County school system should take appropriate measures to sanction Coach Grooms. The real winners of the entire incident are the same ones who won the game on the field, in spite of Lakeside’s worst attempts to win — the Rebels of Effingham County High School.