Although South Effingham’s football team was off Friday, it did not mean the players had a relaxing week.
The Mustangs spent the week improving on the basics, working on new material and focusing on their next opponent, Cross Creek.
“It’s a good thing we didn’t take the week off. We’re staying in shape and doing our drills,” senior punter Conner Carmack said. “I think not playing helps us because we can’t get any better if we don’t practice. This week is bringing us closer as a team and it unites us.”
The Mustangs are off to a 3-0 start and don’t want to slow down.
“When you’re 3-0, it’s fun, and you don’t want to lose that fun,” SEHS coach Greg Manior said. “We have to keep working each week and you never know as a coach what each week is going to bring.”
Manior said a big part of having a successful season is getting the kids focused and ready to play.
“We’ll come out with the game plan to be successful, but we can’t play it for them,” he said. “They have to go out and execute. If we execute and keep executing, then we’ll be OK.”
For 21 players, this is the last season they will strap on a Mustangs helmet and they want to go out on top.
“The seniors really want to win,” Carmack said. “I think we have a chance if we really push ourselves, but we can’t let 3-0 get to our head. We have to play every game the way we’re supposed to play.”
“I’m loving our senior leadership. It’s awesome this year,” South Effingham defensive end Cody Miller said. “Our underclassmen are really stepping it up and the freshmen in there are playing extremely hard. Everybody fights hard and I think as we start going through region play, we’re going to come together even more.”
The Mustangs’ Wing-T offense requires attention to detail and Manior said his guys have done a good job executing the minute details.
“The guys are doing a good job of ball security and knowing where to go, who to block and knowing the coverages on defense and how to line up,” he said. “Everything we do is meticulous, so we need everybody where they need to be to put people in the right position to win the football game.”
To be successful, Manior said his squad still has work to do.
“Our offensive line needs to stay on blocks a little longer. We have a lot of guys who like to run at the guy and take a kill shot at him rather than running their feet,” he said. “We’re concentrating on making contact, running our feet and staying on our blocks. Our defensive guys are working on attacking and using their hands to get rid of a blocker. It all goes back to fundamental football.”
The bye week allows the Mustangs to regain the intensity they had after their win over Effingham County.
Last Friday, South Effingham came out flat and escaped Bryan County with a 17-8 win.
“Our kids are looking pretty good, now,” Manior said. “We had a wakeup call against Bryan County and I think everybody is concentrating this week on getting the intensity back up and focusing on the fundamentals of football.”
The Mustangs have been a running machine this year, picking up 603 yards on 117 carries. Meanwhile, the passing game has been virtually non-existent. The Mustangs have put the ball in the air only 17 times, completing five passes.
The off week is allowing the Mustangs to work on the passing game and the defense is working on improving its tackling and spying the quarterback.
“The off week is giving us a chance to work on several things that we want to take a look at without going into a competition,” Manior said. “We want to see if it will work with our kids and it gives us a chance to watch our kids work on new things.”
Region 3-AAA crossover games begin next Friday, when Cross Creek of Augusta visits the Corral. The Razorbacks also are off to a wonderful start, having won their first three games.
Unlike South Effingham, the Razorbacks enjoy putting the ball in the air. Manior and the coaching staff have watched plenty of Cross Creek game film and have made some adjustments.
“We’re getting ready for them, especially in the secondary because they throw the ball all over the place, so we’re working on some four-wide and five-wide packages and getting the right personnel in there,” he said.
South Effingham defeated Cross Creek 20-13 last year.
The Razorbacks, like the Mustangs and nearly all teams in Region 3-AAA, are off this week.
After Cross Creek, the Mustangs travel to defending region champion Washington County’s House of Pain in Sandersville.
Though the Golden Hawks are having a down year, losing their first three, Manior expects them to be tough as always.
“Washington County is playing some touch competition and they graduated a lot of seniors but by the time we line up and play them, Washington County will have everything clicking and be the Washington County of old and we’re not going to take them for granted,” Manior said. “They’re a perennial powerhouse in the state and their kids are used to winning.”
Washington County drummed South 44-3 at the Corral last year.
After the game in Sandersville, subregion competition starts and all the games will county toward making the playoffs. The first test is Oct. 12 against Richmond Hill.
South Effingham’s goal for the season is to repeat as subregion champions and win a state playoff game. Miller is optimistic that the Mustangs can accomplish their goals, but said it won’t come easy.
“I do think we have a shot at going further than ever before and be the best team we’ve ever had,” he said. “I think we have to keep getting better. I definitely think we have what it takes.
“We have great coaches and awesome players,” Miller said. “We play with heart and do what the coaches tell us to do, and if we keep doing that we are going to win some games.”
South Effingham football glance
• Record: 3-0, def. Groves 35-21, Effingham 20-6, Bryan Co. 17-8.
• Next game: Friday, hosting Cross Creek at 7:30 p.m.
• Rushing: 117 attempts for 603 yards, averaging 5.15 a carry
• Passing: 5 completions on 17 attempts for 67 yards
• Total offense: 670 yards on 134 plays, averaging 5 a play
• Leading rusher: Gage Marks, 58-300 yards
• Leading passer: Jeff Hamilton, 5-17-0, 67 yards
• Leading receiver: Frank Manker, 1-23 yards
• Leading tackler: Hunter Barras, 32 tackles