By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County had an eventful homecoming heading into the bye week. A memorable streak continued Friday night while a memorable streaker sprinted across Rebel Field, hopped a fence and vanished into the woods.
Rebels running back Jayden Evans carved up a team named Evans and, when ECHS prayed for a miracle, well, Messiah was there.
Welcome back, alumni.
The Rebels rolled to a wild 35-22 victory over Evans — a win that puts them squarely in the Region 2-AAAAAA playoff picture with two region games to play.
Only Brunswick can overtake ECHS, the region’s current leader. The two teams meet Nov. 4.
“Before we can even worry about that, we have exponential amounts of work to do,” said Rebels coach John Ford, who refuses to look past upcoming opponent Lakeside-Evans on Oct. 28.
ECHS (6-2, 4-0 Region 2-AAAAAA) picked up its sixth straight victory — equalling the mark of 2002 and the most since 1995 — despite struggling defensively against Evans.
The Knights had five plays of 34 or more yards while producing 356 offensive yards. Evans also had touchdowns of 51 and 25 yards negated by penalties.
But the Rebels overcame chunks of trouble by making their own big plays — none bigger than Messiah Bacon’s block of a 22-yard field-goal attempt in the final minute of the first half. Timmy Brown returned the loose ball 70 yards for a touchdown and ECHS, instead of trailing 17-14, had a 21-14 advantage.
Bacon came close to blocking Evans’ two previous PAT kicks.
“The third time, I was like, ‘I got to get this’,” Bacon said. “I just stood there and it hit me in the chest. I just had to put it all on the line for the team. I knew I could block it so I had to. There was no other choice. I had to and I did it.”
“(Bacon) dug down deep and found something extra and Timmy made a play and I’m proud of those 10 (other) guys running their guts out trying to get down there and get in front (to block),” Ford said.
The Rebels’ momentum continued into the second half. Quarterback Nate Hayes threw a 52-yard TD pass to Keion Wallace and Damion Gordon scored on an 8-yard run to pull ahead 35-14 midway through the third quarter.
ECHS scored twice in the first half on runs of 1 and 4 yards by running back Jayden Evans, who finished with 150 rushing yards on 27 carries. Evans has had three 100-yard rushing performances during the last four games.
“(Jayden has) strong legs, strong core, strong upper body. He’s always pushing the pile forward, always working for an extra yard. He gave us a whole bunch of willpower, determination, preparation and heart.”
Ford credited linemen Desmond Montgomery, Josh Kleckauskas, Brady Meglan, Trey Gordy, Nick Daughtry and Noah Logan for providing the blocking.
Hayes, despite playing with a sprained ankle, threw for 161 yards — the bulk coming on a 73-yarder to Brown on the first series of the game and the 52-yard TD to Wallace.
Ford says the bye week will be welcomed.
“Let’s get some people healthy and let’s get better at some things,” Ford said.