By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — South Effingham football coach Nathan Clark began preparations for his third year with the Mustangs by looking back at Year 1.
He said his team may have been burned out by vigorous summer workouts two years ago.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get the same amount of work in but slow it down a bit,” said Clark, after Thursday morning’s practice.
The solution — breaking the team into smaller groups. The varsity practices twice a week — Mondays and Thursdays. The freshmen and a handful of sophomores (C-team) come in Tuesdays and Fridays. And the middle school players have been working with varsity coaches Monday and Thursday nights.
“It’s been going fairly well,” Clark said. “This month, we’re trying to get a lot of work in with everyone getting quality reps with the varsity coaches.”
Clark said coaches have been able to take their groups to specialized camps at Kennesaw State, Valdosta State, Georgia State. Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech have camps upcoming.
“It gives the older kids a chance to see what it’s like to be on college campuses, get coached by college coaches and get a little exposure,” Clark said. “That’s what this month is for. Next month, we’ll bump up practice to three times a week for the varsity.”
Since the Cardinal-White spring game on May 21, the SEHS football team has been back on the practice field only about three weeks.
The team did not work out during graduation week and the Georgia High School Association designated the following week (May 31-June 6) as a dead week (mandatory off period for coaches and players).
The GHSA’s second dead week is June 28-July 4.
But in limited time, Clark is seeing his team take shape. The Mustangs didn’t generate much offense through the air in the spring game but continue to improve.
“To be able to throw the ball a little bit, you have to spend an enormous amount of time at it in the summer,” Clark said. “In the spring, you have pads on so you focus on running the ball (in practice). In the summer, you focus on throwing the ball and in the fall you’re able to put it all together.”
Clark said sophomore Kaden DeGenaro has gained an edge as the starting quarterback.
“He’s progressed during the summer and has come a long way since the spring game,” Clark said. “He’s ahead of the other guys, but we’re still competing.”
Junior Justin Martell, who saw some time at quarterback in the spring game, has been excelling at wide receiver and cornerback, Clark said.
Martell could see double duty action on offense and defense along with Cameron Edwards, Peyton Beasley, Shane Alvin, Nick Milbrandt and Justice Mydell, Clark said.
A key offensive weapon, senior running back Joell Laldee, will probably stay with the offensive unit, although he’ll be moved around in multiple formations — much like former SEHS star Rocko Griffin (now at Vanderbilt) in 2019.
“I think we’re getting a good feel for what we can do and what we have to work on,” Clark said.
SEHS will compete in a padded camp at Toombs County High School at the end of July. The Mustangs open the season Aug. 27 on the road against Metter.