That three-game losing streak for the Effingham County Rebels football team is now a distant memory.
The Rebels, thanks to a stingy defense, held off the visiting Statesboro Blue Devils 7-3 in a dramatic victory that evoked previous clashes between the two longstanding rivals.
“They played extremely hard, and I’m very proud of them,” Rebels coach Jack Webb said of his players after their evened their overall record at 4-4 and went to 4-3 in Region 3-AAAA. “They did what they were coached to do.”
In a defensive struggle, it was Effingham’s defense that registered the decisive score. On third and 7 from the Blue Devils 8-yard line, Patrick Jenkins swept right. But the ball was jarred loose and the Rebels’ Perry Herbert pounced on it in the endzone with 1:04 to go in the first quarter. Jackie Chen’s PAT gave the Rebels a 7-3 lead.
The Blue Devils got on the board on their first possession after a tipped punt gave them the ball at the Rebels 45. The drive stalled at the 19 and Caleb Brown kicked a 32-yard field goal with 5:30 to play in the first quarter.
After Herbert’s fumble recovery touchdown, the Rebels defense was tested time and again by the Devils (6-2, 5-2). Jenkins carried seven times on a drive that got to the Effingham 1-yard line, a series kept alive with a pass interference call on third-and-10 at the Devils 33.
But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Jenkins was thrown for a loss.
After recovering a Rebel fumble at the ECHS 36, the Blue Devils drove to the 18 before Daniel Mungin sacked quarterback Luke Connell for a 3-yard loss and Rozzelle missed the ensuing 37-yard field goal try.
“The defense played their hearts out,” Webb said. “The whole team played their hearts out.”
While Statesboro denied Effingham from crossing midfield in the second half, the Rebels defense continued to survive. Connell couldn’t connect with Diego Prince on fourth-and-6 at the Rebels 29 and the following possession also died in Rebels’ territory.
But Connell bottled up the Rebels with a 53-yard punt and the Devils forced the Rebels to punt back to them. Statesboro got the ball at Effingham’s 32 with 2:02 to play in the game.
Effingham’s secondary broke up a pass for Prince near the goal line, Ijon Bedford finally chased down a scrambling Connell for a 6-yard loss and the final pass of the game fell incomplete, sending the Rebels sidelines into celebration.
“With Connell throwing the ball and Prince out there, we were fortunate to make a couple of good plays,” Webb said.
Statesboro had topped the 40-point mark twice this year and had scored more than 30 points in two other games. But the Devils were held to 210 total yards Friday night. Their defense was even more stalwart, holding the Rebels to 98 total yards and six first downs, only two in the second half.
The victory ended a four-game losing streak to the Devils, who hadn’t lost to the Rebels since 1998. The win not only keeps the Rebels’ playoff hopes alive, it also could mean much more.
“It shows we can play with good teams,” Webb said. “For a long time, Statesboro’s had the upper hand on Effingham County. We’re working hard to change that. It’s a real big win. We know we can play with the top teams in the state.”
First downs 11 6
Rushes-Yards 45-160 33-59
Passing Yards 50 39
Passes 4-10 3-6
Total Yards 210 98
Penalties 7-48 8-63
Punts 3-30.6 6-32.1
Fumbles/lost 2/2 2/1
Score by quarters
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot.
SHS 3 0 0 0 3
ECHS 7 0 0 0 7
Statesboro — Caleb Brown 32 field goal
Effingham County — Perry Herbert fumble recovery in the endzone (Jackie Chen kick)
SHS — Patrick Jenkins 22-67, Nic Lanier 17-65, Jacob Lockett 4-25, Luke Connell 2-3; ECHS — Michael Johnson 5-39, Chris Hamilton 10-14, Steven Tarpley 6-8, Dyone Youmans 4-4, Dalton Couey 6-(-4), Team 2-(-2).
SHS — Connell 4-10, 50. ECHS — Couey 2-5, 19; Hamilton 1-1, 20.
SHS — Torrance Whitaker 2-15, Diego Prince 1-18, Lanier 1-17; ECHS — Tarpley 2-32, Hamilton 1-7.