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Nearby lightning zaps Rebels' spring contest
Ashley Thompson
Rebels receiver Ashley Thompson (1) pulls away from a pair of Royals defenders en route to a 53-yard touchdown Friday night. The contest was canceled a few minutes later because of lightning in the area. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County football coach John Ford expects a short film session when breaking down Friday’s spring game tape.

The Rebels and opponent Bleckley County combined to run seven offensive plays before lightning in the area canceled the teams’ spring game at Rebel Field.

ECHS scored on the first play of its second possession when quarterback Nate Hayes completed a short pass to Ashley Thompson who cut across the grain of the secondary for a 53-yard touchdown.

Jonah Strickland kicked the extra point just before flashes of lightning in the distance caused a halt in the action.

Ford said lightning equipment detected a band within eight miles of ECHS. Then the lightning seemed to hover there.

In accordance with Georgia High School Association rules, games and practices must stop and athletes and fans ushered to safety if lightning is spotted within 10 miles.

A 30-minute waiting period follows any flash within the 10-mile radius.

“When you factor in the delays and the 2 ½-hour bus ride for Bleckley County to get back home, it was the right thing to do,” Ford said.

The game was the 10th and final workout for the Rebels of the spring. Ford said he liked what his team accomplished during the first nine practices.

“We didn’t sustain any injuries and we developed competition in several key areas,” said Ford who pointed to linebacker, offensive line and defensive line as areas where players are vying for starting jobs.

At quarterback, Hayes will be looking to replace graduating senior Matthew Ford, who skillfully engineered coach Ford’s short passing scheme.

And, although there were only seven plays in the spring game, ECHS’ explosive touchdown play could be a sampling of things to come from a talented wide receiver stable that includes Timmy Brown and Keion Wallace.

“We had nine practices and a nice warmup session (if you’re counting the spring game),” Ford said.  “I’m excited to see how it goes over the summer.”

After a week off for finals and then another week off for a GHSA mandatory dead week (the week of Memorial Day), Ford said the Rebels will be back at practice on June 6.

The veterans will work out in the morning four times a week. Freshmen will practice in the evening.

ECHS will attend 7-on-7 tournaments at Georgia Tech, the University of South Carolina, in Pooler (hosted by New Hampstead) and Bluffton.

At the end of July, the Rebels will go to a padded camp at Bleckley County.

ECHS, 6-4 a year ago, will open its 2022 season at Richmond Hill on Aug. 19.