By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — Rome wasn’t built in a day and rebuilding South Effingham’s football team shouldn’t be expected in 10.
The 2021 Mustangs were on display at The Corral on Friday night and predictably the defense was ahead of the offense at the Cardinal-White intrasquad game as spring football workouts came to an end.
Jamari Fields’ 26-yard touchdown run and Logan Cribbs’ extra-point kick with 7:59 left provided the first points of the game for the Cardinal.
Less than three minutes later, Joell Laldee’s 45-yard TD run closed the White within a point. But a pass sailed incomplete on a two-point conversion try and the Cardinal prevailed for a 7-6 victory.
“I thought we played hard and I was pleased with how we played defensively,” SEHS coach Nathan Clark said. “It was about what you’d expect when you divided the team up evenly. We’ve only gone 10 practices and everybody played. We’re trying to teach the offense and we’re not very far at this point in time but I was pleased with the effort.”
After finishing with a 1-9 record last season — giving up an average of 33 points while only scoring 10 a game — Clark has every aspect of the team under close inspection.
Under the lights, the defense shined brightest with both teams combining for four sacks, 13 tackles for losses and creating seven turnovers.
The defenses kept the game scoreless for the first three quarters.
Lineman Peyton Beasley of the White had a fumble recovery and two tackles for losses and teammate defensive back Andrew Butler had one of the night’s highlights with an interception at the goalline in the final seconds of the first half.
The offenses combined for seven explosive plays (plays of 20 or more yards). Laldee, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound rising senior, had three of those plays, including two 45-yard runs in the fourth quarter.
“We had a rough year last year, but we’re bouncing back and we’re going to keep grinding. In the weight room, we’re going hard,” Laldee said.
Laldee and Cameron Edwards were named captains before the game.
Edwards, coming off a track and field state championship in the triple jump, had a 39-yard run and was a defensive leader at outside linebacker (striker) for the Cardinal.
“We have to get the most out of (Laldee and Edwards) because they’re extremely talented kids and when the ball’s in their hands, we have a chance to be successful,” Clark said.
Junior Justin Martell and sophomore Kaden DeGenaro started at quarterback for the Cardinal and White teams respectively. Clark played four quarterbacks during the night.
“Right now, Martell and DeGenaro are two guys who are (dueling for the starting job),” Clark said. “We’ll continue to work in the summer and find the person who can manage the offense and do a good job.”
South football players will have the next two weeks off before beginning summer workouts on June 7.
The Mustangs open the 2021 season Aug. 27 on the road at Metter.