By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — For the fourth time this season, South Effingham lined up against a top-five team in Score Atlanta’s weekly football rankings Friday night.
And the Mustangs looked the worse for wear.
“It’s been difficult trying to keep it together,” said coach Nathan Clark after Class AAAA’s No. 3 Benedictine administered a 56-7 setback. “We have a young team. We have good kids who work hard, but it’s obvious they’ve been beaten down.”
SEHS (1-6) lost its fourth straight game. The Mustangs will try to rebound in a Region 2-AAAAAA clash at Statesboro on Friday.
First, they’ll have to flush the BC game from their memory.
And while they’re at it, erase thoughts of their games against Class A’s No. 4 Metter (a 62-31 loss), Class AAA’s No. 5 Appling County (41-10) and Class AAAAAA No. 4 Brunswick (56-21).
South’s other two losses came against teams with superb credentials as well. Glynn Academy took Brunswick to overtime before losing and Effingham County just beat Glynn.
But the BC outing will sting for awhile like a one-punch knockout. The Cadets scored on their first five offensive possessions and had their subs in the game midway through the second quarter.
BC returned an interception for a touchdown and returned a blocked punt for another score.
All in the first half.
BC led 49-7 at halftime and mercifully a running clock shortened the beating.
“It was a good old-fashioned whupping. That’s what that was,” Clark said. “We didn’t play well at all. We weren’t as physical as we needed to be. We didn’t execute on either side of the ball or special teams.
“There are a lot of things we have to improve on.”
South didn’t complete a pass and managed just one first down. The Mustangs had only one snap on BC’s side of the 50 — the result of a Cadets penalty during a punt.
An injury to lineman Nick Milbrandt in the first quarter compounded the night of horror.
Cameron Edwards provided SEHS’ lone highlight, breaking a run up the middle and outracing BC’s secondary for a 65-yard touchdown. Edwards finished with 106 yards on 19 carries.
Meanwhile, the Cadets had a night of highlights. They averaged 14 yards a play while registering 292 yards of total offense in the first half.
Quarterback Holden Geriner, who is committed to Auburn, ran for an 18-yard touchdown and threw a 32-yard TD pass to Luke Kromenhoek.
The Cadets’ other highly regarded star, Justin Thomas, committed to Georgia for baseball, returned an interception 46 yards for touchdown and ran for 61-yard score.
“Hats off to (Benedictine). They have an extremely talented quarterback, extremely talented at the skill positions, a great offensive line. They’re very good upfront defensively and they have a great coaching staff,” Clark said.
SEHS has three games left in its regular season and Clark and his coaching staff face the unenviable task of not letting four setbacks from powerhouse programs affect the next three weeks.
“Our coaching staff will continue to rally (the players),” Clark said. “I don’t think anyone left on the schedule is as good as the people we’ve faced.
“(Losing) has been frustrating and disappointing. I keep telling the kids, ‘Keep working, keep being a good person. You’re going to have adversity in life. Give it the best you can. Something good is on the horizon.’ ”