By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
HINESVILLE — Effingham County coach John Ford preferred not to talk about potential playoff scenarios Friday night.
“We’re not talking the ‘P’ word,” said Ford after the Rebels topped Bradwell Institute 35-12 at Olvey Field. “We have Statesboro next. We’re just going to go to work.”
It’s an approach that already has ECHS (5-2, 3-1 Region 2-AAAAAA) accomplishing lofty goals. The five wins this season equal the team’s total for the previous two years combined.
Last week, the ‘P’ word came into view when the Rebels defeated Glynn Academy for the first time since 2003 (14 straight losses).
A victory against Statesboro will put ECHS in the state tournament for the first time since 2018. Wins against both Statesboro and Brunswick would make the Rebels a region champion for the first time since 1995.
The last two statements wouldn’t be true if ECHS slipped against winless Bradwell Institute, and the Rebels didn’t have a firm footing at the start.
ECHS was whistled for a delay of game before its first play from scrimmage. The Rebels were backed up by two holding calls and, on the sixth play, they fumbled and Bradwell returned it for a touchdown.
“It was kind of a weird game,” Ford said. “There was sloppiness in some places and we have to fix that.”
The Tigers struggled early as well. They were three-and-out with an 11-yard punt on their first possession, suffered a safety on their second possession and went so far backward on their third possession that at one point they faced a third-down with 51 yards to go.
Meanwhile, ECHS got back on track and moved the ball easily, eventually scoring on three of its final four possessions of the first half. Quarterback Matthew Ford completed 16 of his first 17 passes. He finished 20 of 25 for 204 yards.
“Matthew is such a good practice player,” John Ford said. “He watches film. He prepares the right way and he sees the benefit of it on Friday night.”
Ten different receivers caught passes, led by Khiry Wallace’s seven receptions for 69 yards.
The Rebels running game added the finishing touches. Xayvier Coppock scored touchdowns on runs of 8, 8 and 1 yards. The bruising senior running back had seen limited action after suffering an injury against South Effingham on Sept. 15.
Miquel Allen had 87 rushing yards and a 6-yard touchdown on seven carries, and reserve Colton Oglesby punched in a TD from the 1 in the fourth quarter.
ECHS defense played well during the first three quarters while holding Bradwell’s offense scoreless. The Rebels gave up just 25 yards and one first down in the first half while putting a damper on the Tigers homecoming.
It was a stellar performance by a unit patched together by reserve outside linebackers CJ Reese and Bryce Goldwire, playing for injured Luke Roberts and Tyler Wells.
Despite a sore ankle, Wells punted four times for a 40.3-yard average. Two of his punts (one 58 yards) backed Bradwell inside the 10.
The defense recorded two safeties and defensive back Timmy Brown had an interception.
But ECHS wasn’t perfect. The Rebels couldn’t convert four of their five point-after tries and suffered two fumbles.
“There’s a lot to clean up, but our kids played hard, our kids played together and I’m very proud,” Ford said. “They are playing well. I just want to reiterate that I adore these kids. They work hard and play hard and they’re fun to be around. You can’t have a bad day being around these kids, I promise.”