By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — If communication is the key to good play in the defensive secondary, what could be better than having a duo that grew up playing football together in recreation ball and middle school?
Can communication take place any more conveniently than across the dinner table?
This season, South Effingham could be looking at two brothers — Justin Martell and Dominic Martell — for a solution in a past problem area, pass defense.
“We know what each other likes to do,” said Justin, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior cornerback.
“It’s fun playing next to my brother,” said Dominic, a 5-11, 160-pound sophomore free safety. “We train together, work on technique together. It helps us get better.”
Justin could be one of the surprise players to watch in the area this fall. He didn’t play much last season, but has proven to be one of the team’s most versatile players this season.
And Dominic is taking a big step up after playing on the Mustangs junior varsity team a year ago.
“They’re good kids, yes-sir, no-sir kids, they’re mature for their age and they come from a supportive, football-minded family,” said SEHS coach Nathan Clark, pointing out the brothers’ high character intangibles.
Clark saw a few differences as well. He said Justin might be more aggressive, but Dominic might be a little faster.
Not that there’s any friendly brotherly competition here. Or is there?
Basketball? Video games? School grades?
“We’re competitive in everything,” said Dominic, looking at Justin. Both laugh, as if on cue.
In February, Clark asked Justin to prepare to play quarterback and he received snaps under center in the spring game. Now Clark sees Justin as a backup quarterback.
“He was just too valuable at wide receiver and cornerback,” Clark said.
But to prove he’s still in the quarterback discussion, Justin stepped back and threw a perfect pass to Joell Laldee on a slant route Thursday afternoon at practice that led to clear sailing and potentially an easy touchdown before the play was whistled dead with Laldee still running.
“You have to know everything about every position, it’s what do you have to do everywhere,” said Justin about playing multiple positions. “Yeah, you get tired, but we’re working to get ready so we can finish (games off). That was a big problem we had last year.”
Clark wouldn’t name his starters with more than two weeks before the season opener Aug. 27 at Metter, but has said Justin is the team’s best cornerback and wide receiver.
At free safety, Dominic was in the mix vying for starter’s minutes with Ahmir Bostick and LJ Childers.
Last year, the Mustangs defense surrendered 33 points a game en route to a 1-9 record. The big-play attack of Benedictine needed just 39 plays to pile up 457 offensive yards (almost 12 yards a play) in the Cadets’ 39-25 win.
SEHS’ region opponents Richmond Hill, Statesboro, Brunswick and Glynn Academy scored 55, 41, 37 and 35 points respectively.
“Obviously, to be better defensively, we have to be better in the back end,” Clark said. “(The defensive backs) all have to be on the same page, especially when they’re facing a lot of different formations and shifts. They have to be able to communicate.”