I'm really ecstatic about how they played, how they fought and how they overcame.Rebels coach Buddy Holder
RICHMOND HILL — Effingham County coach Buddy Holder’s postgame lollipop tasted a tad sweeter than usual Friday night.
It was coated with the sugary satisfaction of beating a rival and earning the right to host a first-round Class AAAAAA playoff contest.
“I’m really ecstatic about how they played, how they fought and how they overcame,” Holder said following the Rebels’ decisive 12-0 win over the Richmond Hill Wildcats in their regular-season finale.
At the time, Holder wasn’t certain where his team would fall in the playoff pecking order. The Rebels, 6-4 overall, finished 2-2 in Region 2-AAAAAA, the same as Richmond Hill and Bradwell Institute. He had been told, however, that a first-round home game for his team was likely.
“Getting to paint the field next Thursday would be good,” Holder said before leaving the Richmond Hill turf.
Glynn Academy (7-3, 4-0) was assured of top billing in the region but the Rebels, Wildcats and Tigers had harbored hopes of gaining the No. 2 spot and its corresponding home playoff game.
Thanks to tiebreakers, Effingham County earned the No. 2 seed, leaving the Wildcats and Bradwell Institute to hit the road for the postseason. The Rebels will host Region 3-AAAAAA’s Lakeside-Evans (5-4, 3-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Defense paved the way to Effingham County’s postseason berth. The shutout was the first for the Rebels since 2015.
Employing a new alignment under first-year defensive coordinator Phillip Richards, Effingham County is giving up an average of 16.9 points per outing. It surrendered 33.9 points per contest last year.
“You can go out there and coach all you want but if the kids don’t do what you ask them to do it doesn’t work,” Holder said. “They did what they were asked to do tonight. They played their brains out.”
The Rebels came up with a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers, a fumble recovery by Joseph Solomon and an interception by Julian LeGrande. Both came deep in Effingham County territory.
Kenan Hunter picked off a pass for the Rebels in the first quarter.
Offensively, the Rebels had their greatest success passing to Randy Scott. He tallied his team’s touchdowns on grabs of 79 and 17 yards.
Quarterback Jerid Stokes usually had plenty of time to throw.
“I was proud of the effort (of the offensive linemen),” Holder said. “They fought like crazy against a lot of adversity and did a really, really good job. They stood in there, protected Jerid and played really, really well.”
The Wildcats were flagged for multiple personal fouls. They attempted to goad the Rebels into mistakes with mouthy antics and late hits.
“Our kids recovered from all that,” Holder said. “We try to preach to them to not get involved in all that kind of stuff and you could see them doing it all night long. We got a couple of calls (against us) but I really don’t think the officials did a good job of controlling it.
“Our kids have to control themselves and, for the most part, they did. We had one or two that had a penalty but I can understand why.”