By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – A year ago, Effingham County's football team relied on three talented seniors to man the wide receiver positions and the same three to defend in the secondary.
"It's not preferred. You hope to have a different group on each side of the ball," Rebels coach John Ford said.
But hopes gave way to talent last season and Ford kept college-bound standouts Keion Wallace (Georgia Southern), Timmy Brown (Army) and Ashley Thompson (Division II Peru State) on the field.
This season could be different for ECHS' third-year coach. It will be a few days before the Rebels put on pads, but throughout the summer the new crop of wide receiver/defensive backs is looking like an area of depth and talent.
Ford listed 10 athletes to fill the split end, slot and wide receiver positions. And that's a big plus for a squad that likes to get the ball to its receivers quickly in space.
Ford said Zach Gant, Gary Cooper, Antwan Parham and Noah Reese will be candidates for the X position (lining up left of the tight end).
Gant and Cooper were so impressive at Savannah State's 7-on-7 tournament, SSU coach Aaron Kelton extended offers. Parham (6-foot-4) and Reese will push for playing time.
In the slot, Ryan Wells, JR McKenzie and DJ Meyers have been the leading candidates. Wells, a 6-2 junior, is the leading returning receiver with 10 catches. He had four catches in a rout of Southeast Bulloch last season.
And at the Z position (right of the tight end), Q King, Ty Ergle and Lamar Roberts will battle. Roberts is a versatile player who will be used on special teams.
On defense, Cooper and Roberts have been leaders at cornerback. Wells and Meyers head the candidates for safety.
Ford said Damion Gordon may also fit into the defensive secondary picture. Gordon ran for 187 yards and two touchdowns and caught 7 passes for 70 yards as a backup sophomore running back last season, but also possesses good cover skills.
"There's a lot of production to replace from last year (at receiver and in the secondary) but I love this group," Ford said. "They're enthusiastic and competitive and they're great to be around."
ECHS' leading rusher Jayden Evans returned to practice July 11, Ford said. Evans, a first-team, all-region running back who ran for 1,125 yards and 7 TDs last season, had shoulder surgery in February and then tweaked his knee in camp, but he "looks like the Jayden of old," Ford said. …
Ford said senior center Brady Meglan also returned to workouts after the July 4 dead week. Meglan, the only returning starter on the offensive line, missed time because of a shoulder injury. …
Ford said the Rebels have moved up their preseason game with Screven County to Thursday, Aug. 10 at Rebel Field. The season starts for real Aug. 18 against Richmond Hill.