As tempting as it is to try to find out what is happening between Ware County and Statesboro on Friday night, Jack Webb wants his Effingham County Rebels football team to think about one thing and one thing only — the Brunswick Pirates.
The Rebels (5-4, 5-3 in Region 3-AAAA) travel to Glynn County Stadium on Friday night to take on the Pirates (6-3, 5-3), with a potential playoff berth on the line for both teams.
“We’ve got to focus on Brunswick,” Webb said. “The only thing that matters is Brunswick. If we don’t take care of that, it doesn’t matter what else happens.”
The Rebels have been treating the last few weeks as the playoffs, but Friday night is, in essence, a playoff game. The loser has no chance to move on. The winner still does.
“It’s like playing the first round of the playoffs,” Webb said. “The bad thing is, we don’t have total control of our own destiny.”
The Rebels still need some help to make the sanctioned Class AAAA playoffs. They need a Ware County win over Statesboro — the Gators are leading the region at 7-1 — or a Glynn Academy loss to winless Richmond Academy.
Their could even be a three-way tie at the top of the region after Friday night or as many as four teams stuck at 6-3.
That’s six teams, including Effingham, in a battle for four playoff spots.
“It speaks volumes of the caliber of football we’ve got going on,” Webb said. “We’ve got a good and competitive region. We knew we had a chance. We felt if Evans could win out, we had a chance of getting in.”
But after beating the Rebels, the Knights (6-2 in the region) lost back-to-back games to Brunswick and Ware County.
What the Rebels have done lately to get back into the race is shut the door on the opposition. After a late touchdown proved decisive in a 10-6 loss to Glynn Academy, the Rebels blanked Wayne County 27-0, kept Statesboro out of the endzone with a key goal-line stop in a 7-3 win and used two such stands to preserve a 7-0 win over Lakeside-Evans last week.
Webb had been asking his team to play four full quarters and the three-game winning streak shows that’s what they’re doing.
“They haven’t given up and they have played to the very end,” he said. “They’re finding a way to win.”
Chris Hamilton leads the Rebels with 486 yards on 111 carries and leads the team with five touchdowns. Michael Johnson has 374 yards on 80 attempts and Stephen Tarpley has 50 carries for 273 yards.
The Pirates may get star running back Darius Slay back in the fold, but that also may be very unlikely. Slay has not played since the Pirates’ 28-2 win on Sept. 28 because of a knee injury. The reigning region offensive player of the year has rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns on 56 carries this season.
Brunswick’s team speed worries Webb. Quarterback Jonathan Dixon has thrown for 1,058 yards and seven touchdowns. Wesley Smith has 37 catches for 470 yards and Jarvis Williams has 325 yards on 21 receptions. Fullback Richard Cash leads the Pirates with 557 rushing yards and seven TDs on 124 attempts.
The Pirates were crippled by six turnovers in last week’s 14-10 loss to Statesboro.
“We have to be opportunistic on offense if we get a turnover,” Webb said. “We’re going to have to play great defense again and minimize our mistakes. We have to keep scratching and clawing and trying to find a way to get in.”
Region 3-AAAA Standings
Glynn Academy 5-3
Effingham County 5-3
Wayne County 1-7
Richmond Academy 0-8