South Effingham’s football team suffered its first loss of the season last week. If the Mustangs want to avoid two losses in a row, they must defeat a traditionally strong Washington County team on the road.
“Our guys know that when you fall down, you got to pick yourself back up,” SEHS coach Greg Manior said. “We did that yesterday (Tuesday) and hopefully, we will have more good practices.”
The Mustangs travel about 2-1/2 hours to Sandersville to play Washington County at the House of Pain.
For the Mustangs to leave with a win, Manior said they must control the ball, drive the ball down the field, run the clock and when in the red zone, score.
“We need to pound the ball in there and run more like we did in the first three games,” he said. “We’ll throw some play action passes every now and then. If they give us something, we’ll try and take it.”
Manior said they will try to keep the Golden Hawks on their toes with a variety of inside and outside runs.
Washington County lost its first three games to quality competition before defeating Richmond Hill 41-19 last Friday at Richmond Hill.
The House of Pain, ironically, has been the house of pleasure for visitors this season. Baldwin won there 28-0 as did Westminster 35-7. Washington County’s third loss came on the road to Dublin 42-21.
Despite their early struggles, Manior said the Hawks are a physical team.
“They line up and come right at you,” he said. “They just play hard-nosed football on both sides. If they’re going to blitz you, they just show they’re going to blitz.”
The Golden Hawks have a proud football tradition. They have won three state championships, with their last coming in 1997. They have advanced to the state semifinals in the Georgia Dome three of the past four years, including last season where they lost to eventual Class AAA champion Peach County 43-29.
Washington County coach Joel Ingram said this year’s team is talented but young.
“We lost 27 seniors and we have youth and inexperience all over the field,” he said. “There’s talent there, but it’s real unseasoned and unbridled.”
Ingram said the Golden Hawks still cling to their famed traditions, including running the I-formation offense, which he learned as an assistant under Rick Tomberlin.
Unlike years past, there’s no name on Washington County’s roster that jumps out at you.
“We don’t have that marquee name like a Takeo Spikes, Terrence Edwards or Robert Edwards,” Ingram said. “We have role players, but they’re getting better and better.”
Said Manior: “Matching up with their athletes is difficult, but we will do our best. We will play a little zone and stack the line of scrimmage. Our defensive front has to do a good job and our linebackers got to go to the ball and make tackles.”
Last season, Washington County whipped South Effingham 44-3 at The Corral.
The last time the teams played at the House of Pain was in the first round of the 2003 Class AAA state playoffs. Washington County won 43-10.
Manior said his team can’t get caught up in playing in a tough atmosphere, but needs to concentrate on the task.
“Going to the House of Pain is an advantage to them (Washington Co.) but we just have to line up and play,” he said. “No matter whether it’s a corn field or not, we have to line up and do the best we can.”
Ingram said those wins were in the past and he has a new team now.
“Those guys that scored aren’t with us anymore,” he said. “We have to play hard and hopefully put ourselves in the position to win. If we make mistakes like we made early in the year, then it could be a long night. We have to bring our A game.”
In last week’s 27-21 loss to Cross Creek, the Mustangs went to the air more than any other game. Quarterback Jeff Hamilton completed 4-of-15 passes for 24 yards.
Coming into the contest, the Mustangs had completed 5-of-17 passes.
“If they make us pass, then hopefully we can get some high percentage passes and let our guys run,” Manior said.