By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SAVANNAH — South Effingham running back Desmond House had a Friday night in Savannah to remember.
But instead of looking back on his two-touchdown, 193-yard rushing performance, albeit in a 39-25 loss against highly regarded Benedictine, House spoke encouragingly about his team’s upcoming games.
“We have so much to build on,” said the senior. “I think the offense is going to feel more confident in what we’re doing. I feel like we can elevate it even more.”
The Mustangs have been searching for offensive answers all season. And with starting quarterback Alex Cela lost to a broken collarbone three weeks ago, head coach Nathan Clark pitched the single-wing offense to his players.
Results didn’t come immediately. SEHS scored six points in the offense’s debut against Brunswick, then three against Glynn Academy.
The Mustangs (0-7) lost again Friday but not before piling up 376 rushing yards and a season-high 25 points and scaring the bejesus out of the Cadets, who started the week ranked fifth in Class 4A by the Atlanta Constitution.
House, a 5-foot-6, 180-pounder who entered the game with just 57 rushing yards this season, played a big part of Benedictine’s pre-Halloween scare. House had 116 yards and a touchdown by halftime as the Mustangs dominated the line of scrimmage. One drive went 17 plays, 81 yards lasting nearly 12 minutes before being capped by House’s 1-yard TD run on fourth down.
House added a 12-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter as the Mustangs never let BC out of their sights.
“Desmond stepped up and played unbelievably,” Clark said. “He’s a good player and tonight he had his chance. We let him carry the load and he took advantage of it. He’s working hard in practice and I’m so proud of the way he played.”
There were a lot of SEHS players stepping up. Senior running back Larry Scott had 158 rushing yards and two scores.
Clark praised the blocking by linemen Jamarie Mitchell, Matt Dye, Tanner Cobb, Zach Schielke and tight end Malcolm Brown. Sophomore lineman Dylan Moseley did a good job filling in for Peyton Beasley who was hurt. Nick Milbrandt and Lyncoln Fields often cleared the way, leading ballcarriers into the hole.
“You never want the goal to be a moral victory but tonight was good for what we accomplished,” Clark said.
SEHS trailed only 14-12 at halftime. And when BC scored 10 straight points to begin the third quarter and threatened to pull away, the Mustangs answered with a 12-play, 78-yard drive capped by House’s 12-yard TD run that made it 24-19.
BC scored on an 80-yard bomb from Holden Geriner to Trent Broadnax on the next play, but hard-to-discourage SEHS went back to work and matched the 80-yard TD with a nine-play drive to get six points back.
Scott, who set up the scoring drive with a 46-yard run, finished it off with a 13-yard blast up the middle and Benedictine’s lead was cut to 31-25 with 7:33 to go.
“That offense is very frustrating. You just don’t get the ball,” Cadets coach Danny Britt said. “They went to it because of injuries and they’ve been getting better at it every week.”
BC made the most of its offensive opportunities and scored on six of its eight full possessions. The Cadets averaged almost 12 yards a play while recording 457 yards.
“We knew they were extremely explosive on offense,” Clark said. “They have dynamic players. We knew to have any success we’d have to slow them down and on offense, keep the ball, make first downs and bleed the clock a bit.”
Friday’s opponent Statesboro (2-5, 1-2 Region 2-6A) at The Corral poses another test. The Blue Devils had about 500 offensive yards en route to a 34-16 victory over Bradwell Institute last Friday to snap a two-game losing streak.
“They beat us last year (40-34). They’ll be tough,” Clark said. “We have to come out with the same energy and belief we had against Benedictine and have a great week of practice.”