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Rebels fall to Lee County in playoffs
Effingham season ends at 7-4 after loss to Class AAAAAA power
Lee County defensive lineman Dontae Tinson (51) rumbles toward the end zone after recovering a fumble Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD – The outcome of Effingham County’s first-round state playoff game was decided quickly, but the pain won’t go away for a while.

The Rebels learned the hard way what a championship football program looks like Friday night.

ECHS surrendered touchdowns on Lee County’s first six possessions – four times on drives of two plays or less – while falling to the Trojans 57-7 at Bob Griffith Stadium.

The Rebels finished the season with a 7-4 record. They came up just short of their first region championship since 1995 during a 30-27 loss to Brunswick a week earlier.

But their Class AAAAAA state playoff clash with Lee, a two-time state champion, lacked the drama of the previous week. ECHS trailed 47-0 at halftime. A second-half running clock was never more welcomed. 

“It’s always tough to lose at home, especially the last game ever,” Rebels senior wide receiver/defensive back Keion Wallace said. “I’m a little annoyed now. We wanted this game badly. But I wouldn’t trade this season for anything. The coaches, my teammates, we had a great season.”

ECHS won seven games for the first time since 2018. The program hasn’t had eight victories in a season since 2002.

Lee County (8-3) kept it that way. The Trojans’ powerful running back Ousmane Kromah and speedy runner Braxton Honer took turns making big plays against an overmatched defense.

Effingham County’s Keion Wallace (3) absorbs a jarring hit on a second-quarter running play Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger

Kromah, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore, has offers from Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State along with another dozen Division I blueblood programs.

“(Kromah) is one of the top three running backs I’ve ever gone against,” Rebels coach John Ford said. “Jamal Lewis at Douglass, Alvin Kamara at Norcross – he’s on that level. That’s a Sunday guy.”

Imagine LeBron James playing high school basketball. That’s Kromah, only with a football in his hands. He had nine carries in the first quarter against ECHS and scored four touchdowns.

Kromah finished with 131 yards on 11 carries. Honer added 110 yards on 13 carries and caught a touchdown pass. Quarterback Weston Bryan ran for a TD and passed for another.

Lee’s defensive pressure remained relentless as the lead continued skyward. The Trojans forced two fumbles – one returned for a touchdown and another recovered at the Rebel 1 to set up another score.

Only ECHS running back Jayden Evans managed occasional success, registering 105 yards on 20 carries. It was his fifth straight 100-yard game. Evans finished the season with 1,114 rushing yards.

Sophomore Tyler Smith scored the Rebels’ lone TD on a 19-yard run with 3:01 to go and Jonah Strickland booted the PAT for the final point of the season.

If there was a silver lining in the rout, ECHS players saw a program that perennially ranks among the best in Class AAAAAA. Lee County won state titles in 2017 and 2018.

“(Lee County) coach Dean Fabrizio has built a model program as a blueprint for schools like Effingham to follow,” Ford said. “That’s what we’re working toward every single day. It was impressive to see in person. Impressive on film. I knew it was going to be a tough out.”