By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — “Spring forward” doesn’t have anything to do with Daylight Saving Time for the football programs of South Effingham and Effingham County.
In accordance with the Georgia High School Association, state high school football teams are allowed 10 practices within 13 school days in the spring.
And for the Mustangs and Rebels, after winning just one and three games, respectively, last season, spring workouts provide starting points to move forward.
ECHS took the field with first-year coach John Ford last Thursday. SEHS, with third-year coach Nathan Clark, kicked off the spring with freshmen practices May 5 with the rising sophomores, juniors and seniors making their first appearances Friday.
“We have a good group of men. Now let’s see how much synergy we can develop,” Ford said.
The Rebels will have a different look this season, starting at the top. Ford took over for coach Buddy Holder, who left for another job in the school district.
Ford, who led successful programs at Roswell and Buford, began the framework of his new coaching staff by hiring Austin Osment from Alexander High as offensive coordinator and Tommy Gilstrap from Elbert County as defensive coordinator.
“It’s not necessarily my offense or defense. It’s about what the kids can do,” Ford said. “We’ll figure out what the kids can do and try to do that as much as possible.”
ECHS has significant holes to fill, including finding a replacement for two-year starting quarterback Zach Garcia, who recently signed to play with Division II St. Augustine’s University.
Rising senior Matthew Ford saw some time at quarterback last season and brothers Keion and Khiry Wallace have played key roles at wide receiver.
Coach Ford wouldn’t elaborate about key positions.
“I would say this about every position. It’s too early to tell,” he said.
Clark and the Mustangs have similar challenges. Clark said he has about 35 freshmen and another 100 sophomore, junior and seniors.
He said opening day on Friday for the veterans went well. Finding leaders and building character will be early goals and the staff put the players through drills involving hitting blocking sleds, pushing tires and tackling in the open field.
“We didn’t want to make it enjoyable,” Clark said. “We wanted to show them this is the tone we’re going to set.”
Clark said he’s seeing outside linebacker LJ Childers, running back Joell Laldee and versatile Justin Martell emerging as leaders.
Martell will be competing for the quarterback position, but could play wide receiver or defensive back.
“When your most vocal and best players are also your best people, normally you have success,” Clark said.
ECHS and SEHS will continue their spring football practice this week and finish on May 21. The Rebels will end with a scrimmage Wayne County in Jesup. The Mustangs will split the team and conclude with an intrasquad game.