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Barkley continues to make strides as Mustangs’ QB
JT Barkley
Junior JT Barkley, shown here during spring practice, is working to be South Effingham's starting quarterback. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SAVANNAH – South Effingham’s 7-on-7 passing drill workout with Islands High School ended on an encouraging note June 27.

Mustangs junior quarterback JT Barkley made a throw into a tight window at the goal line and Kaden Davis hauled it in for a score.

It’s been a month of learning on the job for Barkley, who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season varsity football game, but could be the starting quarterback in about six weeks when SEHS opens the season against New Hampstead.

“At the beginning of the summer, I was feeling some pressure because it was new,” Barkley said. “It is what it is now.” 

He doesn’t mind being in the middle of the action. As a sophomore, he started at catcher on the Mustangs baseball team.

Now, he’s trying to do both.

“It’s like any quarterback who’s a first-time starter. It’s hard to trust yourself and really let go of that ball and know everything is going to be right,” SEHS coach Loren Purvis said. “That’s the thing about experience, you get better the more you (throw).  Eventually, it becomes second nature. I’m excited for him.”

It’s just Purvis’ second year as head coach. He took over a program that ran a wing-T offense to accommodate the personnel and, for the most part, kept the scheme in place for a senior-laden group and won six games in 2023.

Water Break during Football Practice
South Effingham football players take a water break during a 7-on-7 passing drill scrimmage against Islands High School June 27 in Savannah. (Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald.)
But Purvis has been around coaches like Jeff Herron and Richard Bell at Prince Avenue Christian and Tommy Jones at Dacula. Those coaches like to be multiple.

So does Purvis.

At Morgan County, Purvis, as the 2022 Region 4-3A Offensive Coordinator of the Year, had a 1,400-yard rusher and an 800-yard receiver with an offense that averaged more than 35 points a game.

Purvis was part of the Mustangs’ high octane multiple spread attack as Coach Nathan Clark’s offensive coordinator in 2019.

But to open up the offense, you need a quarterback to throw, receivers to catch, a line to block.

Barkley has the physical attributes to be the right fit. He’s tall, strong-armed, throws a nice spiral and is unflappable.

How fast can experience catch up with potential? He had just one carry for eight yards in a blowout win over Islands last season.

“I feel like I’m progressing, particularly from where I was last year,” Barkley said. “The summer has actually gone well. It’s been hot but other than that, I’ve been throwing the ball well. Everybody’s been catching it.”

After the July 4th dead week – a week off from practice in accordance with Georgia High School Association rule – Purvis said the focus goes from 7-on-7 action to 11-man football. SEHS had one padded camp in June.

The first day for practice in pads is July 29.

“Now our focus switches to “Let’s get ready to play,” ” Purvis said.

And Barkley keeps his eye on the big picture.

“Our goal is to be better than we were last year,” he said.