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Defense sparks Effingham County
Ashley Thompson
Rebels safety Ashley Thompson (1) heads for the end zone after intercepting an overthrown pass intended for the Terrors Greg Peacock (21) on Friday. Thompson returned the ball 39 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Timothy Brown
Rebels receiver Timothy Brown chats with teammates Ashley Thompson (1), Jayden Evans (17) and Brenden Morris as the clock winds down Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Coach John Ford was rewarded for his confidence in Effingham County’s defense Friday night.

Trailing Glynn Academy 7-6 late in the first half at Rebel Field, he opted to punt with his team facing a fourth-and-long situation at the Terrors 33. Two plays later, safety Ashley Thompson picked off a pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for a 20-14 victory at Rebel Field.

“It was just a gut feeling,” Ford said immediately after the Region 2-AAAAAA contest. “I have faith in our defense. It was playing great and played great the entire game.”

Ford had plenty of reasons to be confident. Excluding a first-quarter touchdown run of 80 yards by Greg Peacock, the Rebels (4-2, 2-1) allowed just 38 rushing yards on 26 attempts.

Glynn Academy (3-4-1) didn’t fare much better through the air, especially in the early going. Quarterback Tyler Devlin’s first seven passes were incomplete. The Terrors’ lone first-half connection, which covered 21 yards, came on a trick play. 

Wide receiver DJ Riley fired a 21-yard strike to Devlin, who curled out of the backfield after a pitchout. Devlin caught the ball on the home sideline and advanced the Rebels 29. The Terrors, however, were eventually pushed back almost to midfield before punting.

Effingham County’s passing game was much more effective. Quarterback Matthew Ford connected on 10 of 13 first-half throws for 99 yards and a 37-yard touchdown to Timothy Brown. Brown’s score came with 8:56 left before halftime. 

Feeding off the momentum created by Thompson’s interception return, the Rebels scored quickly in the third quarter. Ford hit Brown in stride in the middle of the field and Brown raced into the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown that, coupled with a Wyatt Lein PAT, put Effingham County on top 20-7.

Glynn Academy got its lone score late in the fourth quarter after marching 81 yards in six plays. The drive, aided by an interference penalty, ended with a 12-yard pass from Devlin to Peacock.

The Rebels outgained the Terrors 323-218 in total yards. Ford completed 14 of 21 passes for 214 yards, the two touchdowns to Brown and an interception.

Brown had four grabs for 112 yards.

The win over the Terrors was a big step toward a Region 2-AAAAAA playoff berth but Ford isn’t thinking that far ahead.

“Bradwell, Bradwell, Bradwell,” he said in reference to Effingham County’s next opponent. The Rebels are set to visit the Tigers in Hinesville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.