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Mustangs headed to Evans with playoff aspirations
Kadin Ward
Mustangs running back Kadin Ward (15) raises his arms in triumph after scoring on a 12-yard run in the fourth quarter Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Matthew Moore
South Effingham's Matthew Moore pounces on a loose ball Friday night at Grovetown. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GROVETOWN — The South Effingham Mustangs passed what was essentially a playoff test with flying colors Friday night.

Needing a Region 2-AAAAAA win to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Mustangs (4-4, 2-3) defeated the Grovetown Warriors (4-6, 1-5) at the Warzone, 19-14. 

South Effingham coach Nathan Clark was pleased with his team’s showing.

“That was a big win for our boys,” he said. “We had two close games against Vidalia (Aug. 19) and Glynn Academy (Oct. 7) where we weren’t able to finish the deal. Against Lakeside (Oct. 14), we were able to close it out at the end and we were able to do it again tonight in another close game.

“Any time you can do that, it means things are going in the right direction. It sets up a great opportunity against Evans.”

The Mustangs will qualify for postseason play with a win over the Knights (3-6, 1-4) in Evans.

“We’ve won two games in the region and Evans has only won one,” Clark said. “Grovetown has won one and Lakeside has won one so, if we are able to just take care of business, we will be in the playoffs.”

 Clark was buoyant about  the aggressiveness the Mustangs displayed against Grovetown.

“There were some licks being passed out there,” he said. “I was really pleased with that. The guys fought back.”

South Effingham never trailed but was challenged in the second half. After the Warriors cut their deficit to 12-7 in the third quarter, the Mustangs responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated early in the final period with a 12-yard burst up the middle by Kadin Ward.

“It ate up a bunch of clock and they got into the end zone,” Clark said. “That was great.”

Grovetown answered with an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown march that caused the Mustangs faithful to start feeling uncomfortable. It got worse a couple minutes later when South Effingham lost a rare fumble near midfield with 4:25 left.

“That was our only turnover of the game,” Clark said. “I believe that is the first time we’ve turned the ball over since the (Sept. 23) Effingham County game. I’m not positive but I know it’s been a few weeks since we’ve turned it over.

“That gave (Grovetown) some life.”

The Warriors’ hopes for victory were quickly dashed, however. They pushed the ball to the Mustangs 34 before running out of downs when Tyrik Guyton broke up a pass. The series also featured a sack. 

William Christmas, Jeremiah Washington and Matthew Moore were involved in the crucial play. Christmas also had another sack in the contest.

“We had to stop them and our defense came through,” Clark said. “Matt Moore had a play where he blew up the left side of the line. He had a lot of penetration that allowed our guys to get there.

“I thought our defense played pretty good.”

Grovetown, which lost a fumble that was recovered by Moore, amassed 254 yards on 51 plays, including 36 rushes that went for 142 yards. 

After the key defensive stop, the Mustangs used eight plays to burn the last three minutes off the clock.

 South Effingham finished with 218 total yards. Ward and Justin Martell paced the attack with 89 and 84 yards, respectively.

Aubrey Heath passed for 38 yards, completing two of four attempts. Colin Edwards stretched for a 28-yard grab in the second half.

The Mustangs led 12-0 at halftime after getting a first-quarter touchdown run of two yards by Ward and a pair of field goals by Tyler Quick. Quick’s second-quarter kicks covered 23 and 36 yards.