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'Stangs turn attention to Tigers after trampling Sharks on new turf
Robert Clark
Mustangs running back Robert Clark (42) makes a juggling catch for a 15-yard gain in the third quarter Friday night. - photo by Photo by Gilbert Miller

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — The South Effingham football team’s performance Friday night wasn’t nearly as flawless as the new synthetic turf unveiled at The Corral.

Mustangs coach Nathan Clark won’t complain about a 24-0 victory over Islands, however.

SEHS (1-1) rebounded from a last-minute loss to Vidalia on Aug. 19 and pitched its first shutout since the 2018 season opener against Long County (35-0).

“(The offensive execution) wasn’t as clean as I would have liked,” Clark said. “Too many penalties, too many mistakes and we have to clean that up. At some point in the second quarter, it was like we took our foot off the gas.”

But a good first 15 minutes turned out to be all the Mustangs needed to motor past their struggling Wilmington Island foe. South scored two touchdowns and a field goal on its first three possessions before the game sputtered.

Jamari Fields’ 5-yard TD run opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Justin Martell followed with a 10-yard TD run to complete an 8-play, 54-yard drive on the next possession to make it 14-0, and Tyler Quick booted a 31-yard field goal for three more points on Possession No. 3.

Robert Clark ended the scoring with a 1-yard TD run in the third quarter.

Fields finished as SEHS’ rushing leader with 93 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Fields had an apparent 48-yard TD run negated by a chop block penalty.

South’s run-oriented wing-T offense churned out 226 yards on the ground.

But the Mustangs defense probably earned any game balls given out Friday. SEHS had 13 tackles for losses, resulting in Islands’ minus 30 rushing yards for the game.

The Sharks finished with only five first downs and 32 yards of total offense.

Mustangs linebacker Jah’Tavion Wieckerson recovered two fumbles and defensive back Dominic Martel had an interception.

Defensive lineman Jeremiah Washington had three tackles for losses during a second-quarter possession.

“I thought defensively we played extremely well all night,” Clark said. “They played hard. I thought the effort was there.”

Islands had three good scoring chances but self-destructed after reaching the Mustangs’ 17-yard line (a lost fumble), the 18-yard line (five plays lost yardage eventually giving the ball back to SEHS at the 37) and the 21-yard line (Islands turned the ball over on downs).

Fourteen penalties for 119 yards kept the Sharks swimming backward as well.

South had its offensive problems after the opening barrage. The Mustangs had two bad snaps in punt formation — one lost 36 yards and the other resulted in a minus-17 yard punt when the punter picked up the loose ball and kicked it.

South also lost a fumble inside the Islands 10 and failed to convert a fourth-and-one play at the 21.

The blemishes, however, were overshadowed by the pristine playing surface.

“The kids were really excited to play on the field,” Clark said. “We’ve been watching the workers get it ready all summer long.”

Friday morning, workers finished putting more sand and wood chips down, Clark said.

“They finished it and we’re extremely grateful to (school district superintendent) Dr. Yancy Ford and the Board of Education and the taxpayers here for allowing us to have this,” Clark said.

Next up on the turf Friday — Bradwell Institute, which brings in a 24-game losing streak. The Tigers, 0-3 this season, captured their last win against Effingham County (31-28) on Oct. 11, 2019.

South beat Bradwell 28-22 last season and 28-14 in 2020.

“We went to OTAs (outside training activities) and played with them this summer so we know they’re going to be aggressive and they’ll be motivated because our games have been tight the last two years,” Clark said. “We have to have a good week of practice and hopefully we can play as well as we did in the first quarter (against Islands) for four quarters.”