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ECHS looks forward to tackling tough football schedule
ECHS Football coaches
Effingham County head football coach John Ford (right) discusses strategy with assistant Eric Dixon during the Rebels' spring game against Richmond Hill on May 15. ECHS opens the football season on Aug. 23 at Houston County. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County football coach John Ford wants to challenge his team. How does a season opener against an experienced quarterback with 30 Division I college offers sound?

The Georgia High School Association recently released its members’ 2024 football schedules and the Rebels will kick off on the road with Houston County on Aug. 23.

The Bears won nine games last season and have returning quarterback Antwann Hill, Jr., a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder who threw for 2,732 yards and 31 touchdowns a year ago. Hill already has offers from Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Florida, and many others, according to Internet recruiting site 24/7 Sports.

The next week, ECHS will play its home opener against New Hampstead, a squad that averaged 35 points a game behind returning quarterback Rashawn Truell (3,308 passing yards, 38 TDs).

“Hopefully, we’ll be playing tough games in November and December and I just don’t believe you prepare yourself by being comfortable in August and September,” Ford said. “You don’t learn how to swim in the kiddie pool.”

ECHS, 7-4 a year ago, won a region championship for the first time since 1995, but will move into a new region with familiar foes this fall. The GHSA realigned its membership into seven classifications (6A is the highest) based on enrollment.

The Rebels will compete in Class 5A (along with South Effingham and four others from Region 2-6A) in the nine-team Region 1.

Greenbrier, Bradwell Institute and Statesboro played in Region 1-5A last season.

“In some respects, the region maintains some similarities from what we’ve experienced the last couple of years with South, Brunswick and Glynn and some of the Augusta schools,” Ford said. “Statesboro is new, but they’ve been a non-region opponent the last two years. Bradwell was in our region a couple of years ago.”

Gone is Grovetown – a subtraction that should make region basketball coaches sleep easier at night. Grovetown won a state basketball championship three years ago and had been a contender the past two years.

After opening with non-region opponents Houston County and New Hampstead, ECHS will begin the region schedule with Brunswick at home on Sept. 6. The past three years, the game decided the region championship in the final week of the regular season. The margin of victory in each game was three points.

The next week, ECHS travels to Hinesville for its first meeting with the Tigers since 2021 before coming home to play county rival South Effingham on Sept. 20.

The Rebels won’t return to Bob Griffith Stadium for almost a month with games at Lakeside (Evans) on Sept. 27, a bye on Oct. 4, at Evans on Oct. 11 and at Greenbrier on Oct. 18.

ECHS finishes the regular season with home games against Glynn Academy (Oct. 25) and Statesboro (Nov. 1).

To get ready for the season, the Rebels will scrimmage Wayne County at home on Aug. 8.

“(Playing Houston County and New Hampstead) might be the hardest non-region schedule I’ve put together so far,” said Ford, who will enter his fourth year with the Rebels. “We talk all the time about being uncomfortable, doing hard things, challenging yourself, pushing yourself, getting out of your comfort zone. This is what we’re talking about. We’ll be playing in a tough region. There are no easy outs.”


8-8 WAYNE COUNTY (scrimmage); 8-16 BYE; 8-23 at Houston County; 8-30 NEW HAMPSTEAD; 9-6 BRUNSWICK *; 9-13 at Bradwell Institute *; 9-20 SOUTH EFFINGHAM *; 9-27 at Lakeside (Evans) *; 10-4 BYE; 10-10 at Evans *; 10-18 at Greenbrier *; 10-25 GLYNN ACADEMY *; 11-1 STATESBORO *. Home games are ALL CAPS *indicates region game.