By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
Summer football practice ramps up for local schools with season openers only about six weeks away.
South Effingham returned from a two-day, padded camp at Tift County on June 30. Effingham County recently competed in 7-on-7s at the University of South Carolina and Bluffton High in consecutive weeks.
Both SEHS and ECHS were off during a Georgia High School Association mandated “dead week” from July 4-10 but hard work will come alive in the heat leading up to Aug. 19 — the day South kicks off on the road against Vidalia and the Rebels travel to Richmond Hill.
Camps play a big part in preparation.
“When you go to these camps, you don’t win and you don’t lose, but what you see is kids winning reps and losing reps,” Mustangs coach Nathan Clark said. “What you want to do is learn from the negatives and build on the positives.”
Clark saw positives and negatives in his team’s play at Tift’s camp which featured Tift County, Westover and Early County. Padded camps provide an 11-on-11 workout/competition with contact but without taking players to the ground.
Clark said the first day (June 29), the Mustangs struggled in the rain but showed improvement on Thursday.
“We were missing about 10 kids from wrestling (camp) and three or four others were on vacation but we were able to take some of the younger kids and give them reps and opportunities to impress the coaches,” Clark said.
Clark said the play of junior Aiden Dean was encouraging. Dean was a starter on the offensive line coming out of camp last season, but tore his ACL in the first game. Clark said Dean should be ready for the start of 2022.
Jamari Fields, Robert Clark, Mason Anderson, Justin Martell, Tanner Hughes, Jaiden Washburn, William Christmas and Jeremiah Washington continue to shine in camp.
Freshman Kadin Ward has been a surprising newcomer.
And quarterbacks Kaden De Genaro and Aubrey Heath continue to show progress as the Mustangs add some wing-T concepts into their offensive attack.
Clark said South will attend its second padded camp July 18 at Camden County with Camden, Charlton County and Ware County.
Effingham County will travel to Bleckley County for its only padded camp July 13-14.
To this point, the Rebels, looking to replace graduated starting quarterback Matthew Ford, have gotten different work in pass-oriented 7-on-7 camps – a quarterback and six skill players lining up against a defensive secondary.
ECHS coach John Ford said the 10-team Bluffton 7-on-7 camp was very competitive with a bracket leading to a camp championship in the afternoon.
But Ford sees 7-on-7 action as a chance to develop depth. He said he took about 50 players to Bluffton and he’ll take a similar team-building approach at the Bleckley padded camp.
“We'll probably play our (second and third stringers) as much as the starters. We see more value in that. We don’t play the outcome game,” Ford said.