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Scoring twice in the last five minutes of the game, including the final score with less than a minute to go, Effingham County’s home-standing Rebels outlasted the SCHS Gamecocks of Ron Duncan 27-23 handing the Red and White a bitterly disappointing outcome at Rebel Field Sept. 6.
Now standing at 1-1 on the young season, the Roosters will travel to Baxley Friday night to face 1AAA powerhouse Appling County.
With just 4:51 left, SCHS’s Quan Smith and Rashad Hughley teamed up for a 41-yard scoring play that, when coupled with Jacob Smith’s PAT, gave the Red and White a 23-14 lead.
Improving to 2-0 seemed a given for the Dirty Birds. However, the home team had different ideas.
“Call what you want, but we didn’t finish the game,” said Duncan. “There were eight things that happened that if any one of them doesn’t happen, we probably win it. There is a lot of blame to go around, but it starts and ends with me. I can accept that. We just need to try and keep growing up as a team and young men.”
Taking advantage of poor SCHS tackling, ECHS took one play to close their deficit when an eight-yard pass over the middle turned into a 63-yard stunner. Suddenly, the score was 23-21.
When the Roosters picked up one yard in three plays after Shadon Kemp recovered an onsides kick at midfield, the punt snap sailed over Jacob Smith’s head giving the Rebels the ball at the Gamecock 34-yard line.
Five plays later with just 48 seconds showing on the game clock, the Rebels had their first lead of the night. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 27-23 the wrong way.
Hughley hit Quan Smith with one nine-yarder, before the horn sounded.
After meeting with his team, Duncan said, “I told them I was proud of their effort, but a loss is a loss and we are not here just to give effort. We are here to succeed.”
After a tremendous series of ups and downs for both teams in the very early going, the first half, as with much of the game, became a picture of frustration for the Gamecocks, especially on the offensive side.
During that first half on six possessions, the Roosters’ average starting field position was the Effingham 44, while the Rebels’ average was their own 21. On the night, the SCHS average starting spot was midfield, while ECHS started at their own 24.
Yet the Red and White scored but thrice.
“Our inability to score in the red zone was very frustrating,” moaned Duncan on Monday. “We should have put them away earlier. We spent a lot of time on our red zone identity this Sunday.”
The first scoring drive for SCHS took one play and covered three yards following a Kemp fumble recovery. Jimmie Robinson bulled in from those three yards out. Smith’s PAT was blocked.
After ECHS returned the kick 40 yards to their own 45 (their best field position of the night until their winning scoring drive), they later scored on what was a very short pass that turned into a 59-yard score. The play was eerily similar to the key fourth-quarter play. Kenton Foy blocked the PAT.
Despite their field position, the Roosters did not score again until 2:08 remained in the half. On fourth-and-goal, Hughley darted in from the one-yard line. Smith added the PAT. The drive began at the Effingham 30-yard line following a 35-yard punt return by Josh Kerson. Brian Alexander’s 29-yard catch and run was the big play in the drive.
Starting with their worst field position of the game, their own 15, the Gamecocks took their opening possession of the second half and mounted their longest drive of the game.
Moving from there to the ECHS 15, the drive culminated with a 33-yard Smith field goal with 5:43 left in the third gave the Dirty Birds a 16-6 lead.
Noteworthy in the drive was a 40-yard hookup between Hughley and Desmond White and a 16-yard run by Hughley.
While the Rebels punted on their next two drives, the Gamecocks moved to the Rebel eight before coming up just a yard short of a first down. Hughley and Robinson each had big runs.
Effingham set the stage for the frantic last half quarter when they scored with 5:50 left in the game and added a two-pointer. A 46-yard completion on a desperation play put the ball at the six yard line to set up the score.
“I thought our kids came out and gave their best,” Duncansaid. “It was better than the previous Friday in that regard.”
For the night, Hughley put up some great numbers. Not since Oct. 23, 2009, had a Rooster QB broken the 200-yard mark (Aikeem Mingle with 276 vs. Southeast Bulloch) as the senior Hughley was 13-24 for 202 yards and no interceptions.
His leading receivers included Alexander with 6-81; White with 3-55; and Smith with 2-50. The passing was necessary to offset a rushing game that netted just 100 yards on 35 carries (2.85 ypc) led by Robinson’s 54 on 21 carries. Hughley also had a 17-yard TD run called back.
Until the final drive, the Dirty Bird defense totally shut down the Rebel rush, holding them to 93 yards on 29 carries (3.2 ypc), but that fateful final drive covered 34 yards, all on the ground, in five plays.
Beyond that, 168 of the total of 331 ECHS yards come on the three big pass completions.
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