Effingham County coach Buddy Holder and South Effingham coach Donnie Revell were proud of their football players despite results that could label the day “Black Friday.”
Twenty-four hours after their seasons concluded, memories of their players battling endured for the coaches.
“We fell behind pretty good and at halftime we said, ‘go out and play for pride and the people who came to watch.’ And they did,” said Holder, whose squad trailed by 36 points at the half but trimmed the deficit to a 52-32 loss to Coffee in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“No one gave us a chance to be on the field with (undefeated Warner Robins),” said Revell. The Mustangs didn’t listen and stayed close throughout the game, before falling 30-17 to the 11-0 Demons in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Effingham County and South Effingham both scored touchdowns in the final minute despite little doubt of the outcome.
“A lot of times players give up but this group didn’t,” Revell said of the Mustangs.
Holder was equally happy to see his Rebels excited on sidelines during their late score.
It was a season that gave local high school fans a bag of mixed emotion. ECHS won seven games in 2016 and returned some of the best skill players in the area but finished with a 5-6 record.
SEHS was much improved but mirrored the 1-10 mark of a year ago.
Both coaches have 2017 highlights to rewind. The Rebels ended the regular season with victories against Bradwell Institute and Richmond Hill — two schools that went through their non-region schedules undefeated.
The Rebels played a difficult schedule, losing to five teams with a combined 42-9 record. ECHS beat Region 2-3A champion Liberty County and lost to highly regarded Thomson by a point.
“Nobody plays the schedule we do,” Holder said.
Revell might argue. The Mustangs’ non-region schedule consisted of six opponents that advanced to the state playoffs. Four of those schools were in a high classification. Another school, Jenkins, is undefeated.
But Revell kept his squad motivated. Inserting sophomore quarterback Taylor Jackson into the starting lineup sparked the team, and SEHS was tough the rest of the way.
The Mustangs threw a scare into Warner Robins as well. SEHS went on the road and trailed by a touchdown midway through the third quarter before surrendering a Demon big play that provided the hosts a cushion.
Jackson threw for a touchdown to Chris Glisson and ran for another while engineering an offense that generated 323 yards.
“Just like all year, these guys never gave up,” Revell said. “We did a lot of things right but we made a couple of mistakes and (Warner Robins) is a good football team. You don’t go 11-0 without being pretty good.”
At Coffee, Effingham County trailed at one point 42-6. The Rebels ended with a surge. Quarterback Jerid Stokes threw for three touchdowns — 5 and 92 yards to DeMario Gant and a 22-yarder to Randy Scott — and ran for a 1-yard score.
Zebrandon Gant added an 18-yard run TD run.
Ironically, the season came full circle for ECHS, which opened the season with a 35-20 loss to the Trojans in the Erk Russell Classic.
“It was a tough way to finish up, but Coffee is awfully good,” Holder said. “They might be better now than they were in the opener.”