STATESBORO — South Effingham didn’t get the big victory it wanted Friday night but it picked up a few small ones while searching for it.
The banged-up Mustangs (1-7, 0-4 in Region 2-AAAAAA) scored on their opening possession against Statesboro, giving them their first lead since posting a 33-30 overtime win over Wayne County on Sept. 10. They also churned out 18 first downs with a clock-eating offense that got off 21 more offensive snaps than the Blue Devils (5-3, 3-1).
The successes weren’t enough, however, as the Mustangs were burned by multiple big plays in a 35-6 setback.
“I thought we outplayed them in the first half other than three plays,” South Effingham head coach Nathan Clark said. “In the first half, they had a big pass, they had a big run by the quarterback and they had the fumble.
“Other than that, I thought we controlled the first half.”
The Mustangs opened the game with a 73-yard touchdown drive that trimmed nearly eight minutes off the clock and produced five first downs. The surge ended with a 3-yard pass from Kaden De Genaro to Justin Martell.
The first big Statesboro play Clark referenced came on the first snap after Martell’s grab. It was an 80-yard touchdown pass from Kam Mikell to Tim Taylor.
The Blue Devils’ second touchdown came just 20 seconds later on a 29-yard fumble return by defensive back Caleb Tisby.
Midway through the second quarter, the Mustangs advanced to the Blue Devils 29 before setting for 46-yard field goal try that missed the mark. Three snaps later on a third-and-nine situation, Mikell scrambled in the backfield while looking to pass before taking off for a 79-yard touchdown run.
Down 21-6, South Effingham opened the third quarter with the ball at its 30. It couldn’t get a first down, however, and had to punt after three plays.
On the first snap after the ensuing kick, Jordan Lovett took a handoff and raced 70 yards for a touchdown.
“When we didn’t execute on the first drive (of the second half) and they did, that really hurt us,” Clark said. “That put us behind the 8-ball to make a comeback but I thought our kids continued to fight really hard.”
Following Lovett’s scoring jaunt, the Mustangs marched 50 yards in 13 plays to the Statesboro 30 but were unable to score. The drive featured a mixture of short passes and runs by Cam Edwards.
Edwards rushed for 127 hard-earned yards on 33 carries. De Genaro passed for 120 yards, completed 14 of 25 attempts.
“We made progress,” Clark said. “We continued to move the ball throughout the entire game better than we have all year. Defensively, we contained them other than big plays.
“Statesboro has some very explosive playmakers. We knew they were going to make some big plays but we have to be able to sustain offensively what we did tonight and finish drives.”
The Blue Devils’ final big play was a 68-yard touchdown reception by Lovett. Statesboro’s four offensive touchdowns accounted for 297 of their 399 total yards.
South Effingham is set to host Richmond Hill on Friday at 7:30 p.m.