By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
The football teams of Effingham County and South Effingham will travel different lengths Friday night with similar destinations in mind.
The Rebels will conclude their 10 spring football workouts with a scrimmage game at Wayne County while the Mustangs will walk out of their fieldhouse and play an intrasquad game at The Corral.
Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
“Can we put 11 guys on both sides of the ball and execute offensively and defensively? Can we run the ball, can we stop the run, can we tackle, can we hustle, can we create turnovers — those are the type of things we’re looking for,” SEHS coach Nathan Clark said.
Ditto for the Rebels, who won only three games last season and have failed to make the state playoffs since 2018.
ECHS first-year head coach John Ford, who was hired in January, knows what it takes to build a winner. He accumulated a 61-17 record with four region championships in six years as a head coach at Roswell (2013-16) and Buford (2017-18).
Twice, he took Roswell to state championship games.
The last two seasons, Ford has been the defensive coordinator at Bleckley County.
“I’ve done (spring games) both ways,” Ford said. “Being so new here and experiencing so many new things, I just wanted the experience of getting on a bus as a team and playing another opponent and seeing how we are under the lights. I want to see how kids respond to adversity. (Wayne County coach Ken) Cribbs does a phenomenal job. We’ll find some adversity there for sure.”
Clark, however, gets to see 22 Mustangs on the field at one time with an intrasquad game. And there will be a lot of film to break down because the third-year coach, who coordinated the offense for two-time state champion Lee County, wants to see players in multiple positions.
SEHS won just one game last season.
“We’re teaching players both sides of the ball and then we’ll really evaluate the spring,” Clark said. “I’m not so worried about what we can do now, but if we do it the right way, it will add up.”
The quarterback position remains at the forefront for both schools. South lost starter Alex Cela to an injury early in the season last year and was forced to use a defensive back and change offenses in the middle of the season.
ECHS’ Zach Garcia, a two-year starter, will graduate.
Clark said Kaden DeGenaro, Aubrey Heath, Justin Martell and Tommy Fernandez are in competition to take over the Mustangs’ quarterbacking job. Matthew Ford saw some time backing up Garcia for the Rebels.
Football will take a hiatus at the schools after the spring game. Graduation is May 28 for South Effingham and May 29 for Effingham County and the following week is a dead week (no practicing) in accordance with Georgia High School Association rules.