Effingham the foe for 2012 Kelly Memorial opener

First Byline: 
Burton Kemp Jr.

Facing their second week in a row of having to down some sort of Region 3AAAAA Rebel rebellion, the red-hot Screven County Gamecocks of first-year coach Ron Duncan will host long-time rival Effingham County’s Rebels Friday night in the home opener at a newly refurbished Kelly Memorial Stadium. 
Kickoff time is 7:30.
Fresh from a 48-0 road win over the Groves Rebels of Region 3AAAAA, the Red and White will be looking to end a two-game losing steak to ECHS that includes a 48-29 loss in Springfield a year ago. The Blue and White return 19 starters from that rout. The Roosters lead the all-time series 16-8-2 and have never lost three in a row to Effingham County.
Last season’s loss, which saw the Gamecocks score more points than in any loss in their long history, looked worse with each passing week. It took the Rebel offense, which amassed 370 yards and averaged 6.9 per play, its next four games to surpass their point output against SCHS. 
In fact, Effingham lost their next eight games in a row. Their season-closing win, which gave them a 2-8 record (the same as the Roosters), came 36-20 over a Liberty County team that also went 2-8.
Whatever the final 2011 record for tomorrow night’s visitors, one fact is simple, the Rooster defense never slowed down the Rebel offense. Eight starters from that unit return for Friday night. 
“They do a great job with their boots and play actions,” Duncan said as for this year’s ECHS offense. “They also run a lot of power and are very good at running the ball off tackle. We will have to be much sounder against these guys.” 
Quarterback Aikeem Mingle, who Friday night became just the fifth Gamecock to go over the 2,000-yard passing mark in a career, was 7-14-0 for 129 yards and two scores a season ago. Tevin Sneed snared one of those scoring tosses. Jeremy Johnson, slowed by an injury and a lack of carries, was held to a season-low 26 yards on five carries. He did enter the end zone once. 
“On defense, they are a 4-4,” Duncan said. “They are very sound in what they do. They will force us to drive the ball. We cannot have mental breakdowns that will put us behind the chains.” 
Effingham returns 10 starters from that defense of a year ago. It was, however, stunned by the ball control of Benedictine’s Cadets in Springfield last Friday. In their 27-7 win, the visiting Cadets of Region 2AA had 270 yards rushing and 106 passing. Noteworthy was a nearly 10-minute drive by the Cadets to run out the clock at the end of the game.
“BC kind of jumped out on them,” said Duncan of the surprising outcome of the ECHS-Benedictine contest. “I really didn’t see that much difference between the two teams. On film, Effingham does a bunch of really good things. We will have our hands full.”
It would seem logical that the first chore of for the veteran Rebel defense is to stop fullback Johnson.
“I am sure they will try and take the fullback away. If I was them that’s what I would do,” answered Duncan to that point. “From what we hear, they seem very confident that they can do that.”
Unlike Groves, this team of Rebels is “solid in the kicking game and they do not play a lot both ways.”
ECHS is coached by legendary Rick Tomberlin who is in his third season as the Rebel commander. In his career, Tomberlin boasts a 230-114 record that includes three state titles at Washington County. One of them came at the expense of the Gamecocks on the surface of Kelly Memorial Stadium in 1994. At WaCo, he was 157-31. 
At Treutlen County, Jonesboro, Lowndes County, Valdosta, and Effingham he is 93-83 with just one playoff win. He is 8-13 with the Rebels.
As for the Rooster chances for pulling an upset tomorrow night, Duncan said, “They are a school about four times our size. We need to play well in order to give ourselves a chance. Our keys are simple, find a way to move the ball and find a way to stop them.”