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Quarterbacks take the lead for ECHS, SEHS in the spring
Aubrey Heath
In this file photo South Effingham quarterback Aubrey Heath fends off a Brunswick tackler. (Staff photo).

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON – A year ago, Effingham County ran only four offensive football plays during its spring game with Bleckley County before lightning in the area ended the contest.

But one of those plays was a 53-yard touchdown pass from the Rebels' first-year starting quarterback Nate Hayes to Ashley Thompson.

"Not only did it help me confidence-wise, but it helped the whole offense," Hayes said. "It showed the work we put in during those nine days was coming together. Even though it was spring, and we had a lot of work still to do, it was nice to see that."

Friday night, ECHS and South Effingham will hold intra-squad scrimmages to conclude their 10 spring practices allowed by the Georgia High School Association.

The Rebels will start at 6 p.m. at Bob Griffith Stadium with rising freshmen scrimmaging rising sophomores for an hour before the varsity goes through situational play.

The Mustangs, under the direction of new head coach Loren Purvis, will also be doing situational work starting at 7:30 at the Corral.

Both teams' quarterbacks could be front and center.

Hayes, a rising senior, is coming off a successful season as a first-year starter, throwing for 1,658 yards and 14 touchdowns and leading ECHS to a 7-4 record and a state playoff appearance.

But all his starting receivers and four of the five offensive linemen have graduated so question marks surround the offense, leading Coach John Ford to opt for a scrimmage to maximize reps and evaluation.

"This is a little different looking team, but I have a lot of confidence in what we'll have on the field," Hayes said. "I'm proud of the work everyone's putting in."

South finds itself with similar searches. Rising senior quarterbacks Kaden DeGenaro and Aubrey Heath will be directing Purvis' new offense. DeGenaro, more polished as a passer, started as a sophomore, but when the Mustangs committed to the run-oriented wing-T last season, fleet-footed Heath saw more playing time.

DeGenaro threw for 602 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2021. Heath led the run game to nearly 200 rushing yards a game last season as South doubled its win total to four.

Purvis said both quarterbacks have done a good job leading and have shown a good understanding of the offense while helping place players in the correct positions before the snap.

"Right now, there hasn't been any separation in the quarterbacks," Purvis said. "The spring game will help (separate the QBs), but we're not picking a No. 1 on May 19. We'll let that play out all summer, if it takes that long, until we see something that tells us, 'hey, he's the guy.' "

Of course, there could be that moment in the spring game that Hayes experienced a year ago.

"Nate did everything right on that play (the TD toss to Thompson), just like you drew it up on the board, which was nice to happen," Ford said.