By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
STATESBORO -- Quarterback Zach Garcia accounted for 405 yards of total offense -- 351 through the air and 54 on the ground -- and five touchdowns but Effingham County couldn't slow down Statesboro's rushing attack and lost 35-33 Friday night.
The defeat eliminated the Rebels from postseason play. Head coach Buddy Holder, who announced during the week he was leaving coaching to take a job in the school district after the season, will be coaching his last game next Friday in Brunswick.
The Rebels (3-6, 2-3 Region 2-6A) played like they wanted to extend the season. Using a five wide receiver set almost the entire game, they had their biggest offensive output of the season. Garcia completed 26-of-41 passes. Keion Wallace caught 10 balls for 193 yards and had TDs of 11, 70 and 25 yards.
The last Garcia-to-Wallace TD connection and Grant Oliver's PAT kick trimmed the Blue Devils' lead to two, 35-33, with 2:44 left. ECHS then recovered the onsides kick and drove to the Statesboro 32 before relinquishing the ball on downs.
Garcia also had a 57-yard TD pass to Garrison Kline and ran for a 37-yard TD.
But the Rebels defense struggled against the Blue Devils power-running game. Statesboro ran for 362 yards. Aundrell Grace ran 14 times for 137 yards and two scores and Jalin Mikell added 143 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
If you like offense, this was your night. During the final 31 seconds of the third quarter, the two teams combined for touchdowns on three straight plays.
Despite the offensive fireworks, the key play of the game came during the usually routine point-after-touchdown kick. Oliver booted a PAT successfully after the Rebels' second touchdown, but a penalty negated the kick and led to another try. The second snap was bad and Garcia was forced to run and ECHS failed to get the point. In the third quarter, trailing by eight (21-19) the Rebels fell short on a two-point conversion pass play.