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Rebels back taking aim at big number
Xayvier Coppack
Effingham County running back Xayvier Coppack runs through the arms of a Screven County tackler during an Aug. 13 scrimmage at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Although the Liberty County game was nixed from the schedule last Friday, Effingham County running back Xayvier Coppock won’t trim any 2021 individual goals.

“I’m trying to get to 1,000 yards and I’ve got 800 and ...,” said Coppock, about the yardage needed and trying to do the math in his head.

The converted tight end posted big numbers — 111 yards on 14 carries — in the season opener against Beaufort on Aug. 27,  providing some encouraging offensive signs for the rushing attack when the Rebels play Lakeside on Friday night for homecoming.

Although it’s a small sample size, Coppock’s first game at running back put him on pace to become ECHS’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Zebrandon Gant ran for 1,205 yards in 2017.

“We’re proud of (Coppock),” ECHS coach John Ford said. “He’s really taken to tailback. He’s a big back, physical, athletic. He runs with good footwork and pad level and works hard in the weight room.”

At 6-foot, 223 pounds, Coppock, a senior, is playing running back for the first time since his recreation football days with the Effingham Jaguars.

“At tight end, I was mostly blocking, but at running back I like going against people and getting into the open field,” Coppock said. “I like getting the ball and seeing what I can do.”

In the summer, Coppock said he approached his new role seriously. He hydrated more and ate more to produce the energy to work out harder in the weight room.

“I had to tone up my weight and get my cuts and my speed up,” he said.

In the second half against Beaufort, Coppock showed he’s capable of being a featured back when the Rebels look to ground-and-pound. He registered 89 of his rushing yards on 10 carries in the final 24 minutes.

His 47-yard gallop on the second play after intermission gave ECHS a scoring opportunity at the Eagles 21-yard line and a chance to break a 3-3 tie.

“When I got the ball, I didn’t see a gap (up the middle), but I saw an opening on the outside, broke a couple of tackles and took off as fast as I could,” Coppock said.

On the next play, running back Miquel Allen also found running room by cutting against the grain and seemingly scored the go-ahead touchdown but a holding call negated the Rebels’ biggest play of the game.

Beaufort dominated the rest of the way, but Ford saw encouraging signs from Coppock on the sidelines.

“Even when he wasn’t in the game, he was cheering on his teammates,” Ford said. “He was encouraging and enthusiastic and showed a lot of senior leadership, I was most proud of that. His offensive stuff is going to be great but the fact that he was cheering on his teammates was awesome.”

Certainly, the Rebels will be counting on Coppock in the future. And Coppock is doing some counting, too — 889 yards to go.

“I’m counting down, trying to get to that 1,000 mark. I’m going to get there,” he said, confidently.