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South Effingham absorbs stinging defeat
Noah Hoang
Mustangs wide receiver Noah Hoang (13) awaits the ball before running into the end zone for a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets on Friday at The Corral. The play is defended by Kenneth Davis (22). - photo by Photo by Birk Herrath
We have a tough group of kids. The seniors are hard workers and I think they will come back ready to play.
Nathan Clark, Mustangs head coach

GUYTON —  Not much separates South Effingham from one of the football favorites in Region 2-AAAAA

The Mustangs (6-2, 1-1) suffered its first region loss against Wayne County in a 31-28 overtime thriller Friday night. They trailed 7-6 at halftime and then matched the Yellow Jackets point for point during an explosive second half.

In overtime, Wayne County kicked a 29-yard field goal to take the lead. Then, facing a fourth-and-two situation, Mustangs head coach Nathan Clark passed up the opportunity to try to get a clinching touchdown in favor of a field-goal try that was blocked.

Clark admitted to having second thoughts after the game.

“I made the decision to kick the field goal to try to send it into a second overtime,” he said. “We didn’t execute properly on the field goal unit. Looking back at it, I probably should have went for it.

“I put the team in a bad decision when we have a good running back and a good offense. It was what I chose to do. 

“Looking back, I kind of wish I would have went for it. I’m really proud of how the boys fought.”

Clark described the matchup as exhilarating.

“No team could really put it away,” he said. “Both teams had opportunities to capitalize on certain things but it was a really good high school football game and both teams came down to the wire.”

Although it was the offensive unit that gave the squad a fighting chance late in the game, Clark pointed out the stellar play of his defense.

“That’s the best the defense has played all year,” he said. “They fought. Coach Nick Smith has those boys ready to play. 

“We had a couple turnovers we created. Waylon Medders scored on a defensive turnover on a fumble and then Hunter Tindall picked off a pass. It put us in great situations but we didn’t play well offensively and that is my fault.”

The Mustangs began their fourth quarter comeback after Taylor Jackson dropped a 46-yard pass to Alex Cela and Rocko Griffin finished the drive with a short touchdown scamper.

Jackson threw for 149 yards and one score. Griffin rushed for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 74-yarder in the first half.

Noah Hoang also tallied one touchdown and had 65 receiving yards. 

Despite the loss, Clark remains in good spirits and reflects on the memorable moments the team has had so far. It needs two more region wins to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. A road game at Ware County on Friday and a home contest against Statesboro (on Nov. 1) are left on the schedule.

“I think we have a good football team. I really do,” he said. “We’ve fought well all year long. It’s been an exciting year. The Jenkins game came down to the end. The West Laurens game came down to the end. The New Hampstead game was a one-point game. 

“Our kids have fought to be in each and every one of them. We have a tough group of kids. The seniors are hard workers and I think they will come back ready to play.

“Statesboro is traditionally good. They’ve won state championships in the past. Ware County — they went to the state championship four or five years ago and they’ve gone deep into the playoffs. They know what they are doing.

“If you watch them on film, I think both of them are beatable. I think if we execute at a high level, we can win.”