By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – At a recent workout at Statesboro High School, South Effingham's football team was missing a wing back for a certain play. Without being summoned, quarterback Aubrey Heath filled the position.
A year older, a year wiser with an acute understanding that as a senior he's running out of years, Heath has been willing to do whatever it takes to help the Mustangs.
"Last summer, a new storyline was created," Heath said. "We had to change what we did previously and we bought into a new system and the wing T (offense) showed us what our potential could be. And now we have a new coach to expand the offense."
An expanded horizon changed Heath as well. After the 2022 football season, he left SEHS to live with his father in North Carolina. Heath said he needed to iron out personal and family issues.
A year ago, he took the majority of the snaps as the Mustangs' starting quarterback job. He says he has a second chance with first-year head coach Loren Purvis, who replaced Nathan Clark in April.
"(Heath) reached out to me after I got the job and before I could say anything, he said, ‘I'm coming back’,” Purvis said.
Purvis, who had been the Mustangs’ offensive coordinator, already knew a little about Heath, who, just a few years earlier, mixed raw talent with more than a splash of immaturity.
"Aubrey is a world different than when I knew him as a freshman. He's growing up," Purvis said.
There's positive proof Heath is growing physically. He said last year he stood 5-feet-11 and weighed 172 pounds. Incredibly, within the year, he's bulked up to 6-3, 205 pounds.
"My mom always told me to eat my vegetables," Heath said, laughing.
He says seriously that added strength has allowed to throw farther and more accurately.
A year ago, he was a prototypical game-manager quarterback, averaging less than four passes and three carries a game.
Heath filled the role of distributor well and South improved from two wins in 2021 to four last season. The Mustangs lost two other games by a touchdown or less.
They entered the season finale against Evans with a chance to make the state playoffs and Heath had his best passing outing in the run-heavy wing T attack, completing five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in the 37-24 loss.
"He's a stellar athlete and he could probably play any of our skill positions," Purvis said. "I told him, you're going to be part of the 11 we put on the field."
Right now, Heath remains in a battle with Kaden DeGenero for the starting quarterback job. Heath is more mobile; DeGenero is a more accurate passer.
"They're both still learning my system on the fly," Purvis said. "They both bring a little something different to the game. I'll have to determine what gives us the best chance to win."
Positive attitudes will help the process. There's still a long, hot summer ahead before the Mustangs' season kicks off Aug. 18 against Vidalia.
"You always hear about time flying by," Heath said. "You don't always think about it, but when you do, you realize the progress you've made.
"The whole team has made a lot of progress. The seniors have worked hard, bought into the system and that's why I'm excited about this season because we're seeing all that hard work pay off under Coach Purvis."