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Mustangs set to break in new surface
New South turf
Finishing touches are being applied to the Sports Turf at The Corral. The project cost $1,369,329. - photo by Submitted

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — South Effingham’s football team has a good reason to look forward to Friday night against Islands High School and a good reason to forget about Week 1.

The Mustangs will be playing on their new synthetic turf against the Sharks at The Corral while trying to put a devastating, last-second loss to Vidalia on Aug. 19 in the rear-view mirror.

SEHS has had a couple of weeks to ponder both after a bye last Friday.

Mustangs coach Nathan Clark said the extra time off was scheduled intentionally, knowing the stadium’s turf wouldn’t be finished until September. Clark said he didn’t want his team playing on the road three straight weeks to start the season.

But having some time to regroup after the Vidalia game is welcomed as well. The Mustangs tied the Indians with a touchdown drive in the final minute, only to have the hosts complete a 63-yard bomb seconds later for the game-winner in a 21-14 heartbreaker.

“The kids have had a good attitude this week,” Clark said. “We’ve focused on (fixing) the mistakes. You can’t have penalties and go backward. You can’t put the ball on the ground. We can’t jump offsides on a hard count. We miss-fit a certain number of plays. It boiled down to us making mistakes and that’s why we lost.”

SEHS (0-1) hopes to make amends against Islands and break in the new turf on a positive note.

South Effingham and Effingham County had their grass fields replaced with artificial surfaces at a combined cost of $3.5 million. The new turfs were funded by a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) passed by local taxpayers.

ECHS will unveil its new turf against Southeast Bulloch on Sept. 9.  

“I’m glad to see more money is being put into sports in Effingham County,” Mustangs senior linebacker Rakeam Williams said. “Sometimes we don’t have as much support as we should have.”

SEHS athletic director Nick Smith said there were plans for a pre-game ceremony to thank officials.

A nice “thank you” from the Mustangs could be a win over the Sharks, who are coming off crushing losses — 49-6 to Calvary and 69-6 to Savannah Christian — during the first two weeks of the season.

The 63-point margin of defeat was the largest in Islands’ nine-year football history, topping the dubious mark of 48 in 2014.

But Clark has his own concerns and some showed against Vidalia.

“We didn’t have a very good night upfront and (Vidalia) was pretty good on the defensive line and that contributed to our lack of success offensively,” Clark said. “(The Vidalia linemen) weren’t oversized, but they were hard-nosed kids. And (running back Ahmelion Jones), I don’t know how many teams we’ll play this year that have a guy better than him.”