After missing the postseason last year, Effingham County’s road to redemption begins Friday night.
The Rebels open the football season at 7:30 p.m. with a Region 3-AAAA contest against Richmond Academy at Rebel Field.
Richmond Academy is a floundering program. The Musketeers have won only seven games the past four years and have their third coach in as many years. Chris Hughes, who is known as one of the better soccer coaches in the state, succeeds Chris Lamb, who went 1-9 last season. The last time the Musketeers advanced to the playoffs was 1998.
Despite their lack of success, ECHS head football coach Jack Webb said his team cannot overlook the Musketeers.
“They’re the best team we’re playing this week and it’s a region football game for us,” he said. “If we win Friday night, then we’re at least tied for first in the region. Every region game is important and we can’t afford to overlook anybody.”
Webb and his staff have reviewed video of Richmond Academy and he said they have speed.
“The concern I got is the speed they have and them trying to get to the outside,” he said. “If they’re able to do that then we could be in trouble. I think with the straight-ahead things we should be OK. I hope.”
Webb said Richmond Academy has shown a tendency to run a lot of isolation plays and sweeps as well as getting into the shotgun and throwing.
On defense, Webb expects the Musketeers to mix up formations between a 5-3 and a 4-4, often stunting the inside linebackers.
Webb said success in the season opener hinges on being focused.
“We have to do a good job of controlling the football and moving the ball down the field,” he said. “We’re going to run our game plan. Offensively, we’re going to run at the bubbles and when we need to pass the ball. Defensively, we’re going to keep it mixed up using some different stunts and it may give them (Richmond Academy) some problems.
Last season, Effingham dominated Richmond Academy 48-6. Interestingly, the Rebels never passed the ball.
This year, the Rebels have a new backfield, with the graduation of Anthony and Antwan Wright.
The Rebels have a running back by committee approach, using at least five different running backs. However, sophomore Michael Johnson received the bulk of the carries in the Rebels’ scrimmage last Friday against Groves.
Johnson carried the ball 12 times for 79 yards.
“He’s going to be a good player for us, but there’s still a lot of learning to do,” Webb said. “As the year goes on, he will get better. This offense wears and tears on you each week because of the pounding they take, but if he stays healthy, he has a chance to be a good back for us.”
In addition to Johnson, Webb also likes Brandon Best, Steven Tarpley, Earl Heyward and C.J. Cummings.
Webb also intends to give fullback Craig Moore more carries and quarterback Chris Hamilton is always a threat to run.