BLACKSHEAR — South Effingham has fallen but it will surely get up.
That was the message head coach Nathan Clark delivered to the Mustangs following Friday’s 42-28 loss to Class AAA No. 4 Pierce County (5-0). It was the their initial setback of the season.
“They are a really good football team — there is no doubt about it — but we’ve got a good football team, too,” Clark said during a postgame huddle. “You’ve just got to keep believing in what you’re doing. We’re on the right path.”
Clark compared the season to a roller coaster.
“You can’t just go straight to the top all the time,” he said. “It’s an up-and-down ride.”
Clark is confident his team will get back on track if it keeps displaying the willingness to fight that it has shown to this point. The Mustangs (4-1) closed the gap to 35-28 in the fourth quarter despite trailing by two touchdowns multiple times.
“... we believed in each other and we had a hope,” Clark said. “It was right there. We just weren’t able to finish it tonight.
“There will be another opportunity for us to do that and we have to take advantage of it.”
The Mustangs missed a chance to take an early lead when Rocko Griffin and Adam Napier didn’t connect on a halfback option pass on the opening snap of the game. Napier was wide open near midfield.
The Bears responded to the Mustangs’ ill-fated series with a 10-play, 94-yard scoring drive that ended with a 15-yard run by LJ Newton.
South Effingham forced a 7-7 tie with 5:36 left before halftime when Larry Scott returned an interception for a touchdown.
Pierce County reclaimed the lead on its next possession, marching 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Mustangs had a chance to cut the gap to 14-10 just before halftime but Liam Rickman’s low kick was blocked.
Newton got loose again for a 59-yard score early in the third period to make it 21-7. Then, the Mustangs — limited to just 55 yards on 10 first-plays — got going offensively.
Taylor Jackson started finding receivers open in the middle of the field. He completed five passes during an 8-yard march that ended with him catching a three-yard scoring toss from receiver Zach Taylor on a fourth-down trick play.
South Effingham’s momentum was quickly stolen as the Bears returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a score.
The Mustangs responded strongly, advancing 80 yards in three pass plays, the final one a 28-yard touchdown strike form Jackson to Taylor.
Jackson completed 12 of 17 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.
The Mustangs, set to host Tattnall County for homecoming Friday, also got a 95-yard kickoff from Griffin.