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Rebels enjoy smooth region ride
Rebels center fielder JR Lonon takes a cut during Thursday's 15-0 rout of Bradwell Institute. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
It’s been worth every second (of the long days) to be able to spend time with this group of young men. I’m talking about ninth grade through twelfth.
Rebels coach Chris Johnson

SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County’s baseball team ended the regular season with a big bang and a big party Thursday.

The Rebels bombed Bradwell Institute 15-0 in four innings at home to finish off a three-game sweep that propelled them to their second straight Region 2-AAAAAA title. The combined margin of victory in the series was 46-1.

After the Thursday’s contest, the Rebels (24-5, 10-2) honored their seniors and hoisted the 2019 region championship trophy.

“I’m going to tell you where it all comes together,” first-year Effingham County coach Chris Johnson said. “The coaching staff that was here under (former) coach (Brett) Griff(in) — those four guys (Aaron Hall, Matthew Alligood, Trevor Wilson and Chuck Smith) — are tremendous men. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much help  and guidance they have given to both me and our team as well. They made the transition so smooth.

“Coach Griff did such a great job for all the time he was here and they made it easy to be honest with you.”

Johnson said his assistants gave him perfect assessment of each player’s strengths, enabling him to put them in spots where they would be most likely succeed.

“Of course, there was a lot of hard work involved and we changed things a little bit — just doing things a little bit different —  Johnson said. “The coaches did a tremendous job of helping us get everything in place.”

The changes started last summer when Johnson ordered his players to work out with the Rebels football team in the weight room.

“(Football) Coach (Buddy) Holder was great about letting them come and they learned from an early time the work ethic that was going to be expected, if they were going to be a part of our program,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who took the helm of the Rebels last spring after Griffin moved into school administration, knows a thing or two about hard work and dedication. He still lives in Metter, which makes for long days. He wants to move to Effingham County but his house hasn’t sold.

“It’s been worth every second (of the long days) to be able to spend time with this group of young men. I’m talking about ninth grade through twelfth,” Johnson said. “We have a great group of young men, great families. They all put in the work, they all support the program and it has been a great blessing for me.”

The Rebels, who had Richmond Hill hot on their tails all season, celebrated their latest 2-AAAAAA title and senior class by eating supper together after Thursday’s game. The seniors include Jordan Rahn, Christian Campbell, Ryan Harley, JR Lonon, Jerid Stokes, Avery Elenbaas, Chase Howze, Holden Fields, Chandler Hinely and Ethan Johnson.

Johnson, still wet after having the contents of a cooler dumped on him, even tipped his cap to his wife during the postgame celebration.

“She has been a coach’s wife for a long time and she understands how it is,” Johnson said.

 The Rebels will host fourth-seeded Lakeside-Evans (9-12, 7-8 in Region 3-AAAAAA) today at 4 p.m. in the first round of the state tournament.

“It’s not going to be a typical No. 1 vs. No. 4 kind of deal,” Johnson said. “It’s probably going to be the best No. 4 team in the state of Georgia.”