By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — If he had a choice, Effingham County head coach Buddy Holder would rather accentuate the second half of his team’s game against Richmond Hill on Friday at Rebel Field.
The defense produced a touchdown and the offense took advantage of a turnover to add a score in the final minute. On the scoreboard, the Rebels played the sixth-ranked Wildcats on even terms during the second half.
Unfortunately for ECHS, there was a first half.
The Rebels couldn’t stop powerful Richmond Hill and sunk into a 31-point hole after 24 minutes and lost 45-14.
ECHS (2-4, 1-1 Region 2-6A) now heads to Brunswick on Friday to play Glynn Academy (4-3, 2-1), which is coming off a 35-3 win over South Effingham.
The Rebels have lost 13 straight games to the Red Terrors since 2003.
Holder hopes the improved second half against Richmond Hill spurs optimism.
“Our kids fought hard in the second half. That’s what we’re going to build on,” Holder said.
Defensive back Miquel Allen was a Rebel fighter for 48 minutes. With the Wildcats leading 38-0 and looking to add to the advantage inside the ECHS redzone late in the third quarter, Allen sniffed out a short pass in the flat, stripped the receiver of the ball and returned it 85 yards for a “how-did-that-happen” touchdown moment.
During the final minute of the game, using timeouts to stop a mercy-rule running clock, the Rebels produced their first offensive touchdown against Richmond Hill in two years (last year they lost 41-0) when backup quarterback Matthew Ford connected with Isaiah Bell on a 6-yard scoring toss.
The game got away from ECHS in the first half. Richmond Hill scored on all five of its first-half possessions and its first second-half possession to bolt out to a 38-0 lead.
After six possessions, the Wildcats were averaging nearly 13 yards a play while shredding a defense that pitched a shutout in its last outing against South Effingham on Oct. 9.
As if Richmond Hill needed any help, ECHS lost a fumble on a kickoff to set up the Wildcats’ second score.
“They’re very well-coached. They do a good job and they’re very sound,” Holder said. “You can’t give them anything. It’s tough to play people like that when you make mistakes, especially early on, and they jumped on us.”
A couple of ECHS transfers, Ashaud Roberson and Kenyan Hunter, made sure it was a long night for their former teammates. Roberson, a running back, ran for 123 yards on 11 carries and scored a touchdown on a 33-yard run in the first quarter.
Hunter, a defensive back, came into the game as a quarterback in a wildcat offensive formation and scored on a 4-yard run.
The Wildcats’ backup running back Evan Clark added 96 yards on six carries and had a 77-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Richmond Hill finished with 500 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tyler Coleman and speedy wideout Jordan Clark hooked up for 44-yard and 66-yard TD passes in the first half.
The Rebels, missing top playmakers Keion Wallace (hamstring) and Khiry Wallace (knee), couldn’t match the offensive firepower. ECHS finished with 118 total yards -- 42 coming on a run by Devon Swinney and 32 on a pass play from quarterback Zach Garcia to Xayvier Coppock.
Swinney finished as the team’s leading ballcarrier with 53 yards.