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SEHS gets just enough defense to hold off Bradwell, 52-36
Mustangs begin 2023 3-0
Jakeim Leeks
South Effingham's No. 4 Jakeim Leeks hits the corner against the Bradwell defense. Leeks ran 11 times for 101 yards. (Photos by Patrick Donahue/Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


HINESVILLE – Back and forth. Back and forth. A football game swinging like a pendulum. Finally, South Effingham came up with a defensive stand.

Ball game?

The Mustangs didn't need a lot of defense Friday night against Bradwell Institute. Their efficient wing-T rushing offense just edged out the Tigers' high-octane spread passing attack and South pulled away late for a 52-36 win at Olvey Field.

The victory boosted SEHS' record to 3-0 and added some intrigue to an upcoming matchup with county rival Effingham County on Sept. 23.

The Mustangs have lost the last three meetings with ECHS by a cumulative score of 73-3.

But three games this season are erasing the memories of three years.

Gannon White
No. 36 Gannon White takes off on a 64-yard gallop that set up the Mustangs' final touchdown of the night.
"The feeling we have is amazing," SEHS senior running back Gannon White said. "I think our camaraderie is great. I feel we have a team that's going to go far."

White and the running game nearly went a quarter of a mile (431 yards) Friday in a wild three-hour-and-18-minute shootout. White, JaKeim Leeks and DaMyon McFarlin each scored twice. Quarterback Kaden DeGenaro completed only three passes for 44 yards but two went for touchdowns – a 23-yarder to Aubrey Heath and a 14-yarder to White.

White, who moved to running back this summer, finished with 146 yards on 10 carries. Leeks had 101 on 11 carries. McFarlin added 86 yards on 14 carries.

Busy kicker Tyler Quick booted seven PATs and a 34-yard field goal, put four kickoffs into the endzone and had another kickoff stop at the 1, which helped SEHS get an early stop. He never had to punt.

South's 52 points were the second most in school history, only trailing the 62 the Mustangs registered against Long County in the 2019 season opener.

"Any time you're 3-0 you feel good. It feels right," SEHS coach Loren Purvis said. "We had a good summer and a good spring, I'm proud of these guys for rising to the challenge. I'm glad they're growing up and stepping up. I'm excited for them."

South's defense surrendered 463 yards – 382 through the air – but it forced a punt, had an interception (by Heath) and had a stop on downs during a span of four Bradwell possessions and a 14-14 game after one quarter turned into a 38-21 lead midway through the third.

But the Mustangs probably never felt comfortable. They were whistled for 15 penalties for 131 yards and had three touchdowns called back. Purvis was ejected from the game for arguing a targeting call against safety Ashton Troutman in the fourth quarter.

It was a lot easier a year ago. SEHS rolled Bradwell 45-0, but the Tigers (1-3) unleashed a much-improved offensive attack on Friday night. Quarterback Christopher Garrett, who threw for a school-record 368 yards a week earlier against New Hampstead, had 352 yards and three TD passes while completing 22 of 30 attempts against the Mustangs.

He also ran for 53 yards and two scores and added a two-point conversion run.

On the two-point run, Garrett suffered an injury and sat out the final 7:42 of the fourth quarter.

Wideout Tyon Jones had seven catches for 224 yards and two TDs. Bryant Thomas caught nine passes for 101 yards. Eric Concepcion had a 1-yard TD catch.

Aubrey Heath
No. 8 Aubrey Heath charges out of the end zone after intercepting a would-be touchdown pass in the second quarter.
"A lot of times our kids were there. We just didn't make the play and (Bradwell) did," Purvis said. "We can't be too upset. It would be different if we weren't there. We'll get better. We'll go back to work and be ready to play."

Early on, the game see-sawed. Five straight possessions ended in touchdowns. Finally, SEHS broke the chain in the second quarter by forcing a punt with the help of four penalties.

Then, Leeks scored on a 13-yard run to give the Mustangs a two-score cushion, 28-14.

Ten seconds later, the cushion was gone. Garrett and Jones connected on an 80-yard TD pass with 58 seconds left in the half to make it 28-21.

But DeGenaro and White capped a six-play, 49-yard scoring drive with their 14-yard TD pass play to start the third quarter.

And after South's defense held on fourth down at the 40, Quick made it 38-21 with a 34-yard field goal.

"We couldn't get in a rhythm (at the start of the game)," Purvis said. "Whenever we did something good, they did something good. But in the second quarter and into the third quarter, I thought we played well. Hats off to the offensive line. The kids fought for it. I'm proud of them."