We are going to come out and fight and do what we’ve done from the very first day. We have to believe and come out to practice with a positive attitude.Mustangs head coach Nathan Clark
GUYTON — It will be a suspenseful week for head coach Nathan Clark and his South Effingham Mustangs.
By falling to Statesboro 40-34 in their final game of the regular season Friday, they were left in postseason limbo. If Statesboro (4-4, 1-2) defeats New Hampstead (3-6, 0-3) this week, South Effingham (6-4, 1-3) will enter the state playoffs as Region 2-AAAAA’s No. 4 seed. If the Phoenix topple the Blue Devils, however, the Mustangs, Phoenix and Blue Devils will be thrust into a mini playoff to determine the No. 3 and No. 4 spots.
Ware County and Wayne County will tangle for the top two spots this week.
Despite the postseason uncertainty, Clark said his team won’t change its approach to practice.
“We are going to come out and fight and do what we’ve done from the very first day,” he said. “We have to believe and come out to practice with a positive attitude.”
South Efingham finds itself in this position because it ended up on the short end of a frenzied down-to-the-wire battle against the Blue Devils.
After a strong defensive stand following a fumbled punt return, the Mustangs put together a short scoring drive. Alex Cela caught a 24-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds left from quarterback Taylor Jackson.
After recovering the ensuing onside kick, South Effingham had 40 seconds to put together a comeback win. But Jackson, who was under heavy pressure, took a sack.
Then, with five seconds left, the Mustangs receivers couldn’t get open and Jackson heaved a pass that landed out of bounds.
“I don’t understand why we have to wait until our backs are against the wall to start playing well,” Clark said. “We are on the edge fixing to fall off the cliff. We made a lot plays at the end.
“Offensively we kept coming back and fighting. We ran out of time. We made too many mistakes. We turned the ball over a couple times tonight, had some bad penalties and it’s disappointing.
“But at the same time, you can take some positives out of this and that is the fight that our kids have.”
South Effingham struggled with the two-headed rushing tandem of Davardrion Lipsey and Jaylin Roberson.
“They have two really good running backs and it was difficult,” Clark said.
After trailing 24-14 at the break, Jackson scored touchdown runs of four and six to aid the Mustangs’ second half comeback. With less than a minute left in the game, Liam Rickman delivered a perfect onside kick, putting the ball in a position where only the Mustangs could recover it.
“Liam practices that all the time,” said Clark. “We executed it to perfection. Coach Judd Alford did a good job of having the team ready.”
Jackson connected on 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Noah Hoang led all receivers with 68 yards on four catches and Hunter Tindall tallied 10 tackles.