By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — The high of winning two straight games lost some altitude Friday night for South Effingham.
The Mustangs couldn’t win the battle of the line of scrimmage and lost the war to cross-county rival Effingham County 29-3 at newly named Rebel Field at Bob Griffith Stadium.
Griffith was honored before the game in a ceremony that officially dedicated the stadium in his name.
Not long afterward, SEHS (2-2, 0-1 Region 2-AAAAAA) realized the stadium’s name wasn’t the only thing that changed in a couple of weeks. The Mustangs were able to dominate Islands and Bradwell Institute while reeling off back-to-back shutouts for the first time in school history.
But their inability to overcome the Rebels’ aggressiveness on both sides of the ball surfaced quickly.
South went three-and-out on its first offensive possession and surrendered an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown the first time on defense.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Mustangs coach Nathan Clark said. “We’re not as physical as we’d like to be. Effingham was aggressive. We need to get that from our kids too.”
South’s ground-oriented wing-t offense missed leading ball carrier Jamari Fields, who sat out for the second straight game with a leg injury. Clark said he’d know more about Fields’ status for Friday’s upcoming game with Screven County during the week.
Without Fields against ECHS, the Mustangs managed just 62 yards and four first downs until midway through the fourth quarter when they marched 77 yards to set up Tyler Quick’s 34-yard field goal and break up the shutout bid.
Running backs Justin Martell and Rakeam Williams finished as the team’s top rushers with 59 and 42 yards, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Rebels, who often like to air it out with their spread passing attack, were content running behind their dominant offensive line. Junior running back Jayden Evans had 128 of the team’s 202 rushing yards and two of the team’s four rushing touchdowns.
Evans scored on runs of 2 and 5 yards. Keysean McCarr had a 1-yard TD blast and Damion Gordon broke off a 48-yard TD run.
“Effingham County is a really good team. I tip my hat to them,” Clark said. “We told (our) kids to just stay together and continue to work hard as a team. We’ve had some good things happen during the course of the season. I like this team. As long as we stay positive, keep battling, we have the opportunity to win games and get in the playoffs.”
Clark hopes to see the change Friday when his club travels to Sylvania to play undefeated Screven County (5-0). The Gamecocks, who have allowed just 26 points, have won three games this season by one point, including last Friday’s 15-14 victory over Warren County.
“(Screven) has one of the best defenses in the state. We’ll have to be ready to play. It’ll be a great opportunity to bounce back from this loss,” Clark said.