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South Effingham survives in subregion opener
10.14 rh-se
Chris Zittrouer runs back an interception of Xavier Owens' pass in the third quarter. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Football in Region 3-AAA is becoming a matter of survival.

The South Effingham Mustangs had just enough to hold off the Richmond Hill Wildcats, taking a 17-7 win Friday night at The Corral, going to 5-1 on the season and 1-0 in subregion A.

“Richmond Hill’s got a good little team,” Mustangs coach Greg Manior said. “They always play us tough, no matter what their record is. They had a good gameplan for us.”

The Mustangs took advantage of a short field twice in the first half for their two touchdowns. Xavier Owens’ fumble midway through the first quarter at the Wildcats 19 led to Frank Manker’s 5-yard touchdown run.

Another fumble deep in Richmond Hill territory led to a punt and a start for the Mustangs at the Wildcats’ 25-yard line. That turned into Gage Marks’ 2-yard plunge on fourth down for a 14-0 lead.

Chris Zittrouer booted a 49-yard field goal with 2:19 before the half for a 17-0 advantage. But that was it for the Mustangs’ offense.

South Effingham’s defense had given up a 60-yard run to Sean Milligan, but they held the Wildcats to 16 yards of offense on their remaining 20 plays of the first half.

“Our defense played a heckuva game,” Manior said. “They’ve got a heckuva quarterback.”

Owens broke off a would-be 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but a penalty curtailed the gain to 41 yards. That was part of a 6-minute, 11-second drive that ended when Daniel Lankhorst fell on Owens’ fumble at the Mustangs’ 17.

Richmond Hill’s first drive of the third quarter took up more than 7 minutes and the Wildcats got as far as the South Effingham 3 before getting pushed back. That drive ended with a missed field goal, one of two on the night for the Wildcats (1-5, 0-1).

“The same thing that happened to us this year happened to us last year,” Richmond Hill coach Brian Brocato said.

The Wildcats held the Mustangs to 58 yards and two first downs in the second half while rolling up 179 yards and eight first downs behind Owens and their option offense.

“Defensively, we played well,” Brocato said. “Offensively, we’ve got to find a way to score. But coming up on the road, I’m really proud of my kids. I think we’re going to be OK.”

One play after the Wildcats’ Caleb Brewer recovered Jace Daley’s fumble at the SEHS 32, Zittrouer picked off Owens’ pass under pressure.

Richmond Hill finally got on the board when Zach Denney took an option pitch 43 yards for a touchdown with 2:58 to play. The following onside kick attempt failed, and the Mustangs ran out the clock, with Manker plowing ahead for two yards on fourth-and-1 at the Wildcats 35 in the jumbo set.

“It’s still a win,” Manior said. “It does beat the alternative. We made a lot of mistakes. We’ve got some things to work on on both sides of the ball, but it’s good to walk away with a win.”

Manker led the Mustangs with 72 yards on 16 carries and Marks had 35 yards on seven carries, all in the first half.
Quarterback Jeff Hamilton was 4-of-6 for 53 yards, getting all his completions in the first half. South Effingham ran only 19 plays from scrimmage in the second half.

The yardstick

    RHHS    SEHS
First downs    10    6
Rushes-Yards    46-255    37-124
Passing Yards    0    66
Passes    0-3-1    5-7
Total Yards    255    190
Penalties    4-35    5-44
Punts    3-26    5-34.4
Fumbles/lost    3/2    2/1

    1st    2nd    3rd    4th    Tot.
RHHS    0    0    0    7    7
SEHS    7    10    0    0    17

Scoring summary
First quarter
SEHS  — Frank Manker 5 run (Chris Zittrouer kick), 5:33
Second quarter
SEHS — Gage Marks 2 run (Zittrouer kick), 6:38
SEHS — Zittrouer 49 field goal, 2:19
Fourth quarter
RHHS — Zack Denney 43 run (kick good)
Individual statistics
RHHS — Tyler Mitchell 11-68, Xavier Owens 14-33, Denney 7-68, Sean Milligan 8-73, Zach Christie 3-7, Nick Montalto 1-1, Darius Postell 1-3. SEHS — Manker 16-72, Marks 7-35, Jace Daley 8-16, Wesley Ricks 4-5, Jeff Hamilton 2-(-4).
RHHS — Owens 0-3-1, 0. SEHS — Hamilton 4-6, 53, Michael Hamilton 1-1, 13. 
SEHS — Waylon Parrish 1-19, Zittrouer 1-14, Jeff Hamilton 1-13, Ricks 1-15, Manker 1-5.