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Richmond Hill holds off South Effingham
Justin Martell
A penalty flag hits the ground as Mustangs receiver Justin Martell (6) tries unsuccessfully to catch as pass as the Wildcats’ Caleb Easterling tries to catch up Friday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — The South Effingham Mustangs aren’t close to where they want to be but they took another step in the right direction against Richmond Hill on Friday.

After Cam Edwards ripped off a 40-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs found themselves down just seven points with plenty of time to force a tie or grab the lead. 

The Mustangs got their chance during their next possession as they marched to the Wildcats 13. They bogged down, however, and the Wildcats tacked on a score in the final seconds to seize a 27-13 Region 2-AAAAAA win.

“Our kids keep fighting,” South Effingham head coach Nathan Clark said. “I have to credit the seniors for continuing to fight. There is no question that it has been a tough season with the record.”

The Mustangs (1-8, 0-5) have lost six straight games.

“We have quality individuals on this team and they have a lot of character and class, and they do things the right way,” Clark said. “I am proud of how they are continuing to fight. You have to give credit to them.

“A lot of people would have folded up at this point in the year. Two weeks ago after we played (Benedictine), I was scared that might take place but these kids these last two weeks have fought their butts off.

“They have continued to be positive and they work hard in that weight room, they work hard during school and they work hard on the practice field, stay together and not blame others.”

South Effingham had plenty to hang its hat on against Richmond Hill. It came out swinging offensively as its first two possessions ended in scores. 

Unfortunately, the drives resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns. Liam Rickman converted the kicks of 25 and 21, yards.

“I cost us several touchdowns,” Clark said while second guessing some of his decisions.

The Mustangs’ third first-quarter series, set up by a fumble recovery by Justin Martell at the Wildcats 38, ended in four plays after missing on a fourth-and-3 attempt.

Richmond Hill took the lead for good with 8:47 to go in the first half following an 11-yard run by Zion Gillard. Blake Williams booted the go-ahead PAT.

The Wildcats scored again on their next possession when running back Ryan Dekle tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Ryan Steele with 2:02 left before halftime.

Richmond Hill’s other scores came on a 35-yard pass from Ty Goldrick to Ravon Grant in the third quarter and a 51-yard romp by Gillard with 61 seconds remaining.

Gillard accounted for 227 of the Wildcats’ 297 total yards. He carried the ball 22 times.

South Effingham tallied 251 total yards, including 166 on 34 rushes by Edwards

The contest wrapped up the regular season for the Wildcats. They will clinch a No. 2 seed for the playoffs if unbeaten Brunswick tops Effingham County on Friday.

The Mustangs will conclude their season at home Friday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Bradwell Institute (0-8, 0-5).

“They are playing better,” Clark said about his team. “Hats off to Richmond Hill. They are well coached and they have a good football team.

“They just out-executed us. They made plays when they had to be made.”