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Mustangs punished by another powerful ground game, defense
Corey Renfro
Pirates Cameron Mobley (6) and Tyrell Gibson slam Mustangs receiver Corey Renfro (22) to the ground, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We have to see how we handle some adversity.
Mustangs head coach Nathan Clark

Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — An unfortunate ring of familiarity sounded during the opening possession of South Effingham’s football game with Appling County on Friday night at The Corral.

The Pirates converted three straight third-down plays — once overcoming a third-and-12 situation — en route to a 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that took more than six minutes off the clock.

Appling County made it look easy the rest of the way, scoring touchdowns on six of its first seven possessions while breezing to a 42-7 victory over the Mustangs.

SEHS dropped to 0-2 heading into its showdown with former region mate Wayne County on Friday in Jesup.

“We have to come back to practice and learn from our mistakes and we have to compete,” said Mustangs head coach Nathan Clark, whose squad played Wayne County competitively last season before losing a 31-28 heartbreaker in overtime.

But last year seems a long time ago now. For the second straight week of the 2020 season, SEHS had no answers for an opponent’s methodical ground attack.

Metter used a run-oriented, wing-T attack to power to a 26-3 victory over the Mustangs in the season opener Sept. 11.

This time, Appling County, a nine-win team that advanced to the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs a year ago, produced 352 offensive yards (312 rushing) with an unbalanced 44 runs and seven pass attempts.

Pirates senior running back Sharode Roberts scored on touchdown runs of 23, 9 and 3 yards in the first half as the Pirates built a 28-0 lead.

Senior quarterback Jeremiah Holmes added a touchdown in each half and another senior, Justice Huntley, scored in the third quarter.

The teams played with a running clock in the fourth quarter because of the mercy rule.

Roberts finished with 94 yards on nine carries. Sophomore Jaylen Johnson had 144 yards on 11 carries.

“We’re just a little AAA school in Baxley, Georgia, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” said Appling County head coach Rick Tomberlin, who lives in Rincon and drives an hour and 40 minutes to Baxley to coach the Pirates.

Tomberlin coached Effingham County for three years and has coached in the Savannah area at Jenkins High School and Calvary Day. He won three state championships with Washington County.

But this season has been unlike any other for Tomberlin. His team was playing its first game Friday because outbreaks of COVID-19 prompted postponements of games with Vidalia and Clinch County during the first two weeks.

Tomberlin said the virus hit his team two weeks ago and players had just finished their reacclimation period to be able to play against the Mustangs.

SEHS has lost valuable practice time because of a COVID outbreak too and the rebuilding Mustangs haven’t fared well. Against Appling County, they managed just five first downs and 27 total offensive yards.

With leading returning rusher Cameron Edwards out with an injury, the Mustangs finished with minus four yards on the ground.

First-year starting quarterback Alex Cela and first-year starting wide receiver Jeremiah Patterson-Young hooked up on an 8-yard TD pass to begin the third quarter to provide a ray of hope.

But the excitement of the season’s first touchdown was quieted when the Pirates retaliated with Johnson’s 70-yard run on the next play from scrimmage.

Appling County scored three plays later on Justice Huntley’s 2-yard run, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and three plays later scored again.

“We have to see how we handle some adversity,” Clark said. “We’ve played two really good football teams and hats off to them. Appling was really dominant (Friday night).”