They turned out the lights at The Corral after the game for the postgame fireworks show — moments after the Hephzibah Rebels had dimmed the South Effingham Mustangs’ playoff chances.
Connell Reddick’s 25-yard touchdown pass and ensuing two-point run lifted the Rebels past the Mustangs 28-27 Friday night, dealing a damaging blow to the Mustangs’ playoff hopes.
“It’s probably the toughest loss I’ve ever faced,” Mustangs coach Greg Manior said after his team fell to 6-3 on the year and 2-2 in Region 3-AAA (A).
Even after Reddick’s score and conversion, capping a back-and-forth affair, the Mustangs were prepared for another rally with more than two and a half minutes to play in the game and all three timeouts remaining. The Rebels’ first kickoff try went out of bounds and Manior forced them to re-kick.
The next attempt landed in the field of play and the Rebels (3-6, 1-3) pounced on it and ran out the clock, with Reddick picking up a yard on fourth-and-inches at the Mustangs 6-yard line to finish off South Effingham.
“It came down to mental mistakes,” Manior said after his team committed four turnovers, including a fumble at the Rebels’ 1-yard line. “And it cost us at the end.”
Having run a kickoff back for a touchdown earlier, Manior wanted to try to exploit the Rebels’ kick coverage again.
“I wanted our guys to get their hands on it. Maybe we could run another back,” he said.
Instead, it bounced around as the Mustangs reacted slowly, the Rebels seized it.
“It killed us,” Manior said.
The Mustangs were hoping to get off to a quick start after stumbling out of the starting gate the last few weeks. But the Rebels turned two turnovers into two touchdowns and led 14-0 off the bat.
But South Effingham rallied, tying the game at 14-14 and eventually taking a 27-20 lead before the Rebels got off the deck again.
“They made more plays than we did,” Manior said.
Now, at 2-2 in the subregion and ending the regular season next week at Liberty County, the Mustangs don’t have a shot at the subregion title and a first-round home playoff game. They also need a BC loss in its last two games, against Liberty on Saturday night or to Burke County next week, and they need to beat Liberty.
“Somebody else has to lose for us to get a chance to sneak in,” Manior said.