Ware-ECHS 1Effingham's defense comes up with a fourth-down sack.
Ware-ECHS 2Chris Hamilton gets the Rebels on the board.
In just a matter of seconds, Effingham County saw its momentum from a touchdown washed away as Ware County’s Eric Adams busted through the Rebels’ kickoff coverage on his way to a 92-yard return to the end zone with 11:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Adams’ touchdown sucked nearly all the life out of the home team’s fans as Ware went on to a 20-7 Region 3-AAAA win.
It was a role reversal of sorts as Effingham County (2-2, 2-1) returned a kickoff for a touchdown last year in Waycross for a win.
Even though there was almost a quarter left to play, Ware County (2-1, 2-0) coach Dan Ragle said Adams’ return was huge.
“Oh boy. I was extremely proud of our young men and our kickoff team for doing that,” he said. “It made me feel a lot better.”
Effingham coach Jack Webb agreed that the return was a momentum changer.
“I guess they returned the favor this year,” he said. “We had poor execution on the kickoff and we didn’t make the tackle and the kid scored. Those are always big in big games.”
Effingham’s offense had a difficult time moving the ball on the Gator defense, racking up only 117 yards on 36 plays.
Effingham’s longest drive was a 65-yard march that culminated in its sole touchdown with 11:54 remaining in the game.
Chris Hamilton, who normally plays quarterback, lined up as the halfback and took the handoff from Dalton Couey 8 yards into the end zone.
Earlier in the drive, Hamilton connected on a 34-yard pass to Michael Johnson. Hamilton also completed an 8-yard pass to Marquel Manior on the drive.
Before the 8-yard scamper, Hamilton picked up 22 yards on three carries in the drive. For the night, he finished with 47 yards on 14 carries to lead the Rebels in rushing.
Ware’s defense held Effingham’s ground attack in check, limiting the team to 61 yards.
On the flip side, Ware’s offense managed only 87 yards on 33 carries, led by Derrick Daniels’ 31 yards. Ware preferred to go to the air as junior quarterback Dustin Cox completed 14 of 25 passes for 135 yards.
Effingham’s Kaleb Writch picked off Cox in the fourth quarter, but Effingham could not move the ball and punted.
Ware County drove the ball well on the Rebels, reaching inside Effingham’s 30-yard line five times, but Effingham’s defense did not break, keeping Ware out of the end zone on three of the drives.
The game was marred with penalties, prompting Webb to say it was like flag day. Ware took the brunt of the penalties. The Gators committed 17 penalties for 135 yards, while Effingham was penalized eight times for 67 yards.
Ware got on the board midway through the first quarter when Cox connected on a 26-yard pass to Daniels on the Gators’ opening possession.
The Gators scored again with 2:14 left in the third quarter when Zach Griffin ran in from 3 yards.