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So'Ham offense seals deal against Lakeside-Evans
Justin Martell
South Effingham's Justin Martell intercepts a late fourth-quarter pass against Lakeside-Evans at The Corral on Friday. A few minutes earlier, Martell tallied a 26-yard touchdown run that gave the Mustangs a 26-13 lead. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON —After South Effingham’s defense stuffed the Lakeside-Evans Panthers in a losing box Friday night, its offense wrapped and sealed it.

The Panthers pulled to within one score of South Effingham in the fourth quarter at The Corral but the Mustangs slammed the lid on them with a lengthy scoring drive. Justin Martell capped the 10-play, 80-yard march with a 26-yard jaunt with 3:25 to go, sealing a crucial 26-13 Region 2-AAAAAA victory.

"For the first time all year, in a game where the offense had to make a play, it did," South Effingham coach Nathan Clark said proudly after the contest.

The Panthers (3-4. 1-2) got the ball one more time but Martell burned them again with an interception near midfield, allowing the Mustangs (3-3. 1-2) to run out the clock.

South Effingham (3-3. 1-2) never trailed in the contest. It led 14-3 at halftime and 20-3 heading into the third period.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Clark said. “I’m really happy for the boys because they have worked extremely hard. I am happy for this school and I am happy for the community.

“It is hard to win region football games.”

Friday’s win was South Effingham’s first region win against a team other than former 2-AAAAAA member Bradwell Institute since 2019.

“We really needed that region game. We have to win some region games to make the playoffs and I think we have a good chance,” Clark said.

Lakeside rallied with 10 points early in the fourth period, including a 31-yard touchdown reception by Temarcus Elam. His grab with 10:03 left is the lone offensive touchdown the Mustangs have surrendered in four games on their new artificial turf

Will Hattaway closed the gap to 20-13 with a 29-yard field goal with 7:33 to go but the Mustangs offense, led by Martell, reclaimed control.

Martell started the clinching drive with a 30-yard burst to midfield. He got the ball four more times before sweeping around the right end behind the block of Mason Anderson for the final touchdown.

In addition to Martell’s late score, South Effingham got touchdown runs of 5 and 6 yards from Kadin Ward, and a tremendous 12-yard touchdown catch from Ashton Troutman. Troutman grabbed a ball thrown by Aubrey Heath, who shared time under center with Kaden De Genaro, with a defender draped all over him in the end zone. 

The Mustangs racked up 18 first downs and 338 total yards. Martell paced the ground game with 106 on 10 carries. Ward finished close behind with 98 yards on 16 attempts.

Robert Clark, Cole Hoffman, Rakeam Williams and Heath also contributed to the Mustangs’ 266-yard total output on the ground.

In the passing department, Heath completed all three of his attempts for 42 yards. Martell added a 30-yard completion to Colin Edwards that was the key play during a 75-yard, second-period drive that ended with Troutman’s touchdown.

The Mustangs limited Lakeside to 140 total yards. Linebacker Jah’tavion Walker led them with five solo tackles, five assists and half a sack. Four of his stops resulted in a loss.

Tyrik Guyton added an interception.

South Effingham will return to action Friday at home against undefeated Brunswick (7-0, 3-0).

“Brunswick is going to be a big test for us and we are really excited about them,” Clark said. “Obviously, down the road we will have Grovetown (3-5, 0-4) and Evans (3-4, 1-2), and (Lakeside) beat Evans.

“If we will do what we are supposed to do, we will have a great chance.”