SPRINGFIELD — John Ford’s first win as Effingham County’s head football coach came with a quite a few frills.
Ford, lured from Bleckley County in January, received the game ball Friday night after his team blanked Lakeside-Evans 20-0 at Rebel Field. The Rebels allowed only one first down and 40 total yards.
“We’ll take it,” Ford said immediately after the game. “Coach (Tommy) Gilstrap and the defense did an awesome job. It’s easy to figure out things on offense when your opponent doesn’t score at all.”
The Panthers’ longest play covered nine yards and they didn’t complete a pass.
“It’s a credit to the defense — the players and the coaches,” Ford said. “They’ve done an awesome job the last two weeks.”
The Rebels dropped a 24-3 decision to Beaufort (S.C.) in their Aug. 28 opener. Their defense played well in that contest but their offense lagged.
It was a different story against Lakeside, however. Effingham County racked up 19 first downs and 335 total yards.
The Rebels were especially effective through the air as senior quarterback Matthew Ford completed 26 of 35 tosses for 254 yards and a touchdown. Effingham County’s first nine snaps were pass plays.
“We are going to take what they give us,” Coach Ford said. “If they give us the underneath stuff, hopefully we can take advantage of the space there. If they give us a light run box, hopefully we can take advantage of the space there.”
Most of Matthew Ford’s passes were on the short side but he hit a long one for Effingham County’s first touchdown. He connected with Khiry Wallace, who beat double coverage, with a 36-yard strike along the visitors' sideline with 2:41 left in the opening quarter.
Nine players logged at least one catch.
“We want to make (the defense) cover all 53 1/3 (yards of the width of the field) and all 120 yards (of the length of the field),” Coach Ford said. “Hopefully, we can read coverages and run routes, pocket protect, run block or whatever it takes to do what we’ve got to do to move the ball. The quarterback, the O-line and the backs and receivers did a really good job.”
The Rebels continued to move the ball effectively after their initial touchdown but didn’t score again until the third quarter. They had a 12-play, 79-yard drive end in no points.
Penalties were also problematic. The Rebels were flagged eight times in the first half.
“We just made some mistakes in the second quarter,” Coach Ford said. “We had a fumble at the 1-yard line and we had a third-and-1 situation close to field goal range but a 15-yard penalty backed us up. We didn’t convert and had to punt it.”
Effingham County got on the scoreboard for the second time when Miquel Allen ripped off a 10-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive with 9::45 left in the third period.
Their next possession ended in another fumble but they upped their lead to 20-0 with 5:37 left in the game. The touchdown came on another 10-yard jaunt by Allen.
Allen finished with a team-high 85 rushing yards. Xayvier Coppack added 71.
Despite their decisive victory, Coach Ford said the Rebels’ won’t alter their approach for their next game at Howard in Macon on Friday.
“Hopefully, some of the things we’ve been preaching were reinforced or they understand why we are doing it or they feel good about it, but the process hasn’t changed win or lose,” he said. “Just because we won on the scoreboard doesn’t mean we don’t have a bunch of mistakes to correct so we will come back in (Saturday) at 10 (a.m.) and get back to work.”
The Huskies are 2-1 after forfeiting to Northside-Warner Robins in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“They run the wing-T, are tough, athletic and fast paced,” Coach Ford said. “They cause all sorts of problems so we’ll enjoy this one tonight but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”