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Rebels football team honored at banquet
Jim Ford
Outgoing head coach Buddy Holder (left) draws chuckles from the audience while giving Jim Ford an air horn to signal the end of Effingham County Dec. 17 football awards banquet in the school’s cafeteria. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SAVANNAH —  The future bumped the past out of the spotlight a few times during Effingham County’s annual football awards banquet.

In a Dec. 17 event designed to honor the Rebels’ individual achievements in 2020, the coaching staff constantly offered the players encouraging words for the next season and beyond.

“I am very excited to see what these guys do in the future because they work so hard in the weightroom,” said Buddy Holder, who stepped down as head coach in November to accept another position in the Effingham County School District.

The Rebels are strong in the classroom, too. A large majority of the players received pins dubbing them “scholar athletes” for maintaining a B average or higher. Sophomore center Bryant Richards led the way with an average of 101.625.

“With this group, we do not have a bad apple in the bunch,” Holder said. “Its’ rare to have a group this big where there is not one kid that you wish wasn’t here. They are great kids, they work hard, they work hard in the weightroom.

“They are tremendous kids and that is a testament to the way they were raised.”

Before turning the floor over to his assistants so that they could honor players in each position group and weightlifting achievements, Holder listed Effingham County’s All-Region 2-AAAAAA players. They included first-teamers Keion Wallace (wide receiver) and Tyler Wells (punter), and second-teamers Ryan Phillips (offensive lineman), Tucker Wilson (linebacker) and Wells (safety).

Matt Ford (tight end), Zach Garcia (quarterback), Devon Swinney (running back), Miquel Allen (defensive back), Ashley Thompson (defensive back), Khiry Wallace (defensive back), Keysean McCarr (defensive lineman), Jalen Barton (defensive lineman), Cooper Nease (defensive lineman), Isiah Bell (wide receiver), Spencer Jeffers (offensive lineman) and Rett Heller (offensive lineman) received honorable mention.

Holder, who has been at Effingham County for 23 years and posted a 43-42 record in eight years as head coach, thanked everyone who supported the Rebels in various capacities in 2020, including the coaches’ families and devoted sidekick Jim Ford.

Rebels booster Sheri Phillips received gratitude for acquiring game day meals for the team at no cost.

“If we didn’t have it donated, we’d spend over $10,000 a year just on feeding kids,” he said. “That saves a lot of money and it takes a lot of effort to do that — and it was good food.

“Those guys ate very, very well.”

Teacher PJ Richardson was thanked for photographing the team, band and cheerleaders throughout the season.

“That’s important because, when you get to be my age and you get old, you get to looking back at those photos and you think back to a lot of good memories.”

A couple surefire memories were made at the end of the banquet as Holder paid tribute to Ford. He handed him an air horn to signal the end of the occasion.

Ford customarily uses an air horn at practice to mark the end of each segment. 

Holder said with a smile, “I’d be remiss to say if I didn’t tell him one more time, “Jim, blow the damned horn!”

Ford immediately obliged and the gesture was welcomed enthusiastically by the audience, which roared approval with cheers and laughs.