By Donald Heath
Special for the Herald
SPRINGFIELD — At the time, it seemed like a wasted timeout for Effingham County. Second-and-7 at the South Effingham 46-yard line late in the first quarter. What could the Rebels possibly be talking about?
Turns out it was the perfect time to get the ball to Keion Wallace.
The sophomore wide receiver ran a deep post pattern and quarterback Zach Garcia led him perfectly in stride for a 46-yard touchdown.
The play was the difference for most of the night before kicker Wyatt Lein’s short field goal midway through the fourth quarter sealed a 10-0 win over the Mustangs at Rebel Field.
The victory was ECHS’ seventh in the last nine meetings between county rivals and avenged a 41-27 loss to SEHS in 2019.
“(Assistant coach) Chris Johnson and those guys on the offensive side had an idea of (the defensive alignment) they were going to get in certain situations,” Rebels head coach Buddy Holder said. “They did a great job preparing.”
Few defensive schemes in high school can slow down a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver with basketball skills. Wallace, a mismatch nightmare for most smaller defensive backs, has caught 20 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns this season.
A year ago, Wallace had 22 receptions for 327 yards and four scores while earning honorable mention All-Region 2-AAAAAA honors.
Internet site Recruit Georgia called Wallace “a coveted recruit” during the offseason.
Wallace was a first-team, all-region performer in basketball. Arguably, he’s the best two-sport athlete in the county.
Understandably, getting Wallace the ball against South Effingham was a priority, Garcia said.
“We worked on the (post) play all week and I thought we executed it well all night,” Garcia said. “I was proud of the offensive line. We had a good week of practice and transferred it to the game.”
Garcia completed only two passes — both to Wallace. A 10-yarder on the final play of the third quarter was instrumental during a 15-play, 71-yard drive that led to Lein’s field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Garcia and Wallace nearly hooked up on a second TD during the drive, but Wallace caught the fade pass from the SEHS 10 just outside the back of the endzone.
“We felt like we had (the matchup) we wanted more than once, but we got it when we got it and it was really big for us,” Holder said.