The South Effingham Mustangs can’t erase all the damage that’s been done in the last two weeks with a win Friday night against Liberty County. To do that, they’re going to need some help.
In order for the Mustangs to return to the Class AAA playoffs, they need to beat the homestanding Panthers and hope Burke County beats Benedictine. But all will be naught unless the Mustangs beat Liberty.
“We’ve got to take care of business,” South Effingham coach Greg Manior said. “If Burke wins, great. But it doesn’t mean a thing if we lose.”
The Mustangs fell by one point last week to Hephzibah in the final three minutes and lost by two points two weeks ago to subregion leader Burke.
“The last two weeks have been really tough, for the players, the coaches, the fans, everybody,” Manior said.
The last two losses have come at home, with the Mustangs having senior night first and homecoming last weekend.
“It’s been hard to bounce back,” Manior said. “We’re trying to keep them positive. They could be one of the better teams the school has ever seen. But it’s been hard.”
Benedictine knocked Liberty out of the playoff chase with a 35-7 victory Saturday night, taking advantage of four Panthers turnovers to blow the game open.
Manior was on hand Saturday night at Memorial Stadium to see the game.
“Seeing them in person, you see how big and fast they are,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. It’s going to be physical. Both defenses are going to be tough. If they don’t make any mistakes, they are big and fast enough to give anyone trouble.”
Led by fullback Byron Calahan and tailback Roderick Jones, the Panthers offense has averaged 23 points a game, twice scoring more than 40 points in a game this season. The Panthers have two shutouts and have not allowed more than 13 points in any of their victories.
Gage Marks leads the Mustangs with 873 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing while Frank Manker has run for 559 yards and nine touchdowns. Manker is also the leading receiver with 98 yards on eight catches. Quarterback Jeff Hamilton is 30-of-72 passing for 332 yards and one touchdown.
For the Mustangs seniors, this game might be their last, something Manior is trying to impress upon them.
“When we have to win games, we usually do pretty well,” he said. “This could be the last week of practice. I’m challenging them to have their best week ever.”
Though Liberty has been eliminated from postseason contention, Manior doesn’t expect the Panthers to let the Mustangs roll over on them. The Mustangs have been to the state playoffs five straight seasons, but without a win over Liberty, they know that streak will end.
“They are playing for pride, too,” Manior said of the Panthers (6-3, 2-2). “We don’t control our own destiny anymore. We have to do what we can to beat Liberty.”
Region 3-AAA (A) Standings
Burke County 4-0
South Effingham 2-2
Liberty County 2-2
Richmond Hill 0-4