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Ford, Rebels ready to show improvement
Matthew Ford
Rebels quarterback Matthew Ford waits for a receiver to make a break during the Aug. 21 Blue-White intrasquad game. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — A new football season brings a new set of circumstances for Effingham County’s Matthew Ford. A year ago, he paced the sidelines hoping for opportunities.

But when the 2020 season kicks off Friday night against visiting Grovetown, the junior quarterback/tight end could find himself in pivotal roles for the Rebels.

Game time is set for 7:30 at Rebel Field.

“We’re excited to get going and we’ve been working to get bigger, faster and stronger in the weight room with coach (Chris) Johnson,” said Ford, the son of school district superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford.

One look at Matthew Ford shows his commitment to the weight room and preparedness. He began last season measuring 6-foot and weighing about 175 pounds. This season, he’s 6-1, 195.

His secret to getting bigger and stronger really isn’t a secret. Ford says he drank protein shakes every day and ate a lot more. He drank water and stayed away from soda.

And he lifted weights.

Concerns of COVID-19 didn’t slow him down. At times, he threw footballs with his dad.

“I just wanted to get on the field and play,” Ford said. “I played tight end in middle school, but in high school I wasn’t big enough or strong enough. I think I’m getting to that point now.”

On the depth chart, Ford is behind senior Zach Garcia at quarterback. Ford led the White team in the Blue-White intrasquad game on Aug. 21 and scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown in overtime to put his team in position to win. A two-point conversion try was stopped and the White lost 7-6.

But Ford’s touchdown run drew praise from Rebels head coach Buddy Holder.

“I thought he made a great read on the touchdown because there was a misalignment on defense,” Holder said. “It was a bust, but he saw it and took off.”

Holder said he wasn’t surprised by Ford’s approach to the upcoming season.

“I’ve known Matthew since the day he was born,” Holder said. “He’s smart, he’s a student of the game. He’s been around football and been around all athletics for a long time. He has a good, natural understanding of the game. I think we’re going into the season with two capable quarterbacks.”

And tight end could be a good fit for Ford, who played the position as a youth for the ultra-successful Effingham Jaguars. Ford and the Jaguars won three straight Georgia Recreation and Park Association state championships in 2014 (in the under-10 age group) and 2015 and 2016 (in the under-12 age group).  

Friday, Rebel fans will get a glimpse of their team’s preparedness after faltering to a 2-8 record a year ago.

Grovetown was 4-6 last season, but just one year removed from winning the Region 3-6A championship in 2018.

Holder, whose brother Rodney started the Warrior football program in 2009 and was the school’s head coach for seven years, said Grovetown runs a wing-T offense which will test the Rebels’ defensive preparedness.

And the ECHS offense will be asked to keep up.

Pressure? Ford says he’s ready, even with the school district superintendent eyeing every move.

“I know my dad will be watching, but I try to put him to the side,” he said.