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Mustangs still in the thick of 3-AAA (A) playoff chase
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South Effingham quarterback Jeff Hamilton fires a pass as Burke County defensive end Cornelius Washington bears down in the Mustangs’ 22-20 loss last week. - photo by Photo by Lisa Bailey

As the regular season begins to draw to a close, the South Effingham Mustangs are being reminded of something they’ve known all along — every week is a dogfight.

The Mustangs host the Hephzibah Rebels on Friday night for homecoming. The Rebels are 2-6 for the year, and 0-3 in Region 3-AAA (A), but they are coming off a loss very similar to the one the Mustangs suffered against Burke County last week.

Last Friday night, South Effingham trailed 22-7 in the fourth quarter before rallying with two late touchdowns, and a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass fell incomplete. The Rebels were down 14-0 to Liberty County, cut that lead to 14-13 in the final seconds, and had a would-be game-winning two-point conversion attempt go awry.

“Hephzibah’s got a good team,” South Effingham coach Greg Manior said. “They’re going to have some athletes. They have tasted defeat on some plays where they could have won.”

The Rebels also battled Benedictine close before falling 32-20 three weeks ago.

The Mustangs (6-2, 2-1 subregion) have lost two games by a total of eight points. In the last two games, the Mustangs have scored a total of 10 first-half points and scored 34 points in the second half.

“I wish we could get out of the gate a little faster,” Manior said.

They may need to do so against a Hephzibah team that scored more than 40 points in each of its two wins. The Rebels will pose a danger with quarterback Connell Reddick (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) and wide receiver Tomarez Jenkins. Reddick has thrown for 894 yards and seven touchdowns and Jenkins has 26 catches for 467 yards and three scores.

“They have speed, agility and quickness,” Manior said of the Rebels. “We’re going to encounter some matchup problems.”

The Mustangs expect the Rebels to try to spread out the South Effingham defense and the Rebels have a penetrating defense.

“We have to block a little bit better,” Manior said.

Last week’s loss hurt the Mustangs’ playoff chances, knocking them out of a tie for first in the subregion. But the margin for error is also smaller this week and next week.

It’s also homecoming for the Mustangs in their final regular season home game and plans also call for an 8-minute postgame fireworks show.

There have been plenty of dramatics the last few weeks for the Mustangs on the field, given their two last-second decisions with Benedictine and Burke County and their upset of Washington County.

“It makes me feel good when guys can reach down and pull a game out,” Manior said. “Our guys have a will where they refuse to lose. Hopefully they can carry that over to the next two games.”