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SEHS looks to newcomers to answer QB concerns
JT Barkley
JT Barkley takes snaps with South Effingham's quarterback hopefuls during the first day of spring practice May 2. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


GUYTON – Filling the void under center will be one of the key issues front and center for South Effingham’s football program this spring.

A year ago, the Mustangs had a new coach faced with deciding between two experienced quarterbacks. The script flips for second-year coach Loren Purvis, who will guide two newcomers – JT Barkley and Max Harrill – challenging for the starting quarterback job.

SEHS opened spring practice on May 2. In accordance with Georgia High School Association regulations, the Mustangs can have 10 practices within 13 school days.

Purvis has opted to play an intrasquad Cardinal-Silver game to end spring workouts on May 17.

“We lost a lot of starters from last year so it seems like the entire team is new, whether it’s new to football or new to being on the field,” said Purvis, who had 133 players in the program practicing on Day 1.

Two captured a lot of attention – the quarterbacks.

“We have to find one,” Purvis said.

Both Barkley and Harrill are rising juniors. According to MaxPreps, Barkley had one carry for eight yards last season. Harrill wasn’t on the roster.

Loren Purvis
SEHS head coach Loren Purvis keeps spirits high during the first day of spring football practice last Thursday. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)
But Purvis has an idea of what each can do. He said Barkley, a catcher on the varsity baseball team, has a stronger and more accurate arm. Harrill is the better runner.

“I thought they both did well (on the first day of spring workouts),” Purvis said. “They’re not going to be, in their mindset, where they think they should be. They want to be the starter but you’re going to make mistakes. You have to let it go and get better.”

A year ago, Purvis chose Kaden De Genaro, the better passer, over Aubrey Heath, who started most of the 2022 season when the Mustangs ran a wing-T attack.

Heath proved to be valuable in multiple uses outside of quarterback.

In 2023, SEHS’ offense retained many of its run-oriented traits, but Purvis slowly opened up the attack. The Mustangs, despite 3-1 run-pass play selection, improved its passing yardage from about 35 yards a game in 2022 to 97 yards a game in 2023.

Scoring increased by almost five points a game.

More importantly, the team improved from four wins to six and went into the season finale with a shot at postseason play.

But that was all accomplished with a senior-laden group in 2023. The 2024 version of Mustangs presents Purvis and South with the new challenge of rebuilding.

“At the end of the spring, I would like to know or at least be projecting the guys (to build around) and feel good about where we are in our playbook,” Purvis said. “This is Year 2 for me, Year 2 for our staff, so we should have a better grasp of what we’re doing and continue to get better with that.”