GUYTON — A banner year for Effingham County Middle School (ECMS) athletics was capped by a historic first.
On April 26, ECMS earned its initial Coastal Region championship in boys soccer.
“We went undefeated for the season,” first-year ECMS athletic director Carrie Radford said. “Usually, Richmond Hill dominates.”
Not this time. The Panthers, led by head coach Carrie Chick and community coach Lamar Hall, edged the Wildcats 3-2 in the final on their home turf.
“It was sweet,” Radford said.
J.J. Harris and Kenneth Harn scored the Panthers’ goals with assists from Nathan Rodriguez. Demari Chermely started in front of the goal, notching eight saves.
ECMS defeated South Effingham in a semifinal. Earlier in the season, the Panthers survived a scare from the Mustangs, prevailing in a shootout.
“South gave us a run for our money in the regular season and the semifinal,” Radford said.
The Panthers’ success was led by a group of eighth-grade newcomers who joined a core of five returning players. They realized they were legitimate region title contenders after skinning the Wildcats in the final match of the regular season.
“We knew we had talent at the beginning of the year,” Radford said. “It was just (a matter) taking that talent — because they played on different travel teams — and putting it together to make a cohesive team and to win as a team. I think that was really good.
“We were very exited.”
The excitement at ECMS wasn’t limited to boys soccer during the 2021-22 school year.
“We won the region championship softball — after 20 years (in September),” Radford said.
Led by head coach Shane Ramsey and assistant Makenzie Thomas, ECMS topped intra-county rival Ebenezer in the Coastal Region tournament final on its own diamond. The Panthers, who earned a first-round bye, ousted Southeast Bulloch en route to the final.
“I think if we stay on the right track and we make sure we build a team, and really build from the bottom up by taking our sixth graders and working with them, we can have some success in the next couple years,” Radford said.
The Panthers are joined in the region by Burke County Middle School, Effingham County Middle School, Ebenezer Middle School, South Effingham Middle School, Langston Chapel Middle School, William James Middle School, Richmond Hill Middle School and Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
“It’s a really big deal to have two region champions in one year,” Radford said. “I think some of our kids don’t even realize how big of a deal it is and we are hoping to a parade for them, and things like that.”