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Coaching moves pay dividends for Rebels
Devontra Bartley
Effingham County’s Devontra Bartley (center) blocks a Beaufort defender as wide receiver Randy Scott (4) runs for a big play on a rush around the left end Friday at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Dawson Stone
Rebels defensive lineman Dawson Stone (68) forces Eagles quarterback Tyler Haley to get rid of the ball Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County Rebels have some tasty morsels to chew on before heading into the meaty portion of their schedule.

New strategies on both sides of the ball were instrumental in the Rebels’ 38-24 victory over Beaufort (S.C.) on Friday. The win in their final non-region contest snapped a three-game slide.

The Rebels (2-4) will open Region 2-AAAAAA play this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Bradwell Institute.

“Our guys are getting better,” Effingham County head coach Buddy Holder said. “Our offense is hitting its stride and our defense has made some adjustments.”

To bolster its ability to thwart their opponents’ rushing attack, the Rebels switched to an eight-man front and their improvement has been dramatic. They allowed only 195 rushing yards against Beaufort after surrendering more than 400 in their previous outing against Burke County.

“We moved some people around into new positions so there was kind of a shock factor there with those guys,” Holder said. “Their eyes got kind of crazy but as the game went on they got settled down.”

It looked like the new alignment might not be successful against Beaufort (0-5). The Eagles marched 77 yards for a touchdown on their first possession.

Beaufort, however, didn’t reach the end zone again until late in the third period.

“(Going to an eight-man front) is a big adjustment,” Holder said. “All of a sudden, they would hit (a big play) and we’d be pulling our hair out. We will get better next week and I am excited about it.

“They are getting the grasp of it.”

Offensively, Effingham County employed an empty backfield for much of the game.

“We went with one back a lot last week,” Holder said. “We didn’t really empty everything (against Burke County) but this week we did because we knew what it would do to (the Eagles) because we had seen some film on them.”

With quarterback Zach Garcia in the shotgun, the Rebels stretched Beaufort’s defense horizontally by spreading their receivers wide across the field.

“It gives us a chance to get a lot of guys on the field and maybe get them a lot of touches that way, too,” Holder said. 

Keion Wallace, Khiry Wallace, Randy Scott, Clayton Papp and Desmond House combined to catch 14 passes for 230 yards.

One of Scott’s grabs was good for a 63-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. 

“Zach made some good reads and (the receivers) did some good things,” Holder said (The empty set) paid off for us.”

Devon Swinney led Effngham County, which got a 48-yard field goal by Zach Thomas, with 59 rushing yards. Swinney got most of his work in the closing seconds as the Rebels ran out the clock.

House finished with 56 yards on the ground, including touchdowns of five, seven and 34 yards. The long scoring burst came with 6:57 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Rebels a 38-17 edge.

Scott added 15 yards rushing on four attempts. Each one came on a sweep after he started in motion before the snap.

Garcia rushed for 12 yards and almost tallied a third-quarter touchdown. He fumbled at the goal line, however, and Scott gathered the ball in the end zone for a score.

Bradwell Institute (2-3) closed its non-region slate with a 48-14 loss to Wayne County. The Tigers have displayed the ability to score, however, as they put up at least 31 points three times, including 37 in a loss to Dodge County.

“They have a quarterback (Dariuse Cooper) who can run and throw a little bit,” Holder said. “They moved him from receiver last year, at least that’s what I’ve been told. He has a lot to do with their offense.

“He is a big kid and it always gives you trouble when you have a guy who can run and throw a little bit.”