GUYTON — South Effingham’s surging football team jolted the scoreboard and their biggest rival Friday night.
The Mustangs continued to chip away at the losing stigma that has surrounded them in recent years by dominating the Effingham County Rebels 41-27 at The Corral. Their seniors ended a three-game skid against the Rebels as the team improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2015.
“It’s another day in paradise,” senior South Effingham quarterback Taylor Jackson. “It feels great. To come out here and do what we’ve done with the energy we have — it’s amazing.”
Jackson hit Zach Taylor with a 15-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Effingham County countered with a field goal and from there a defensive battle ensued.
The Mustangs’ Rocko Griffin ended the scoring drought toward the end of the second quarter with a 3-yard run to paydirt. He finished with three touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards.
Griffin’s final score covered 39 yards and came during the Mustangs’ 21-point fourth-quarter outburst. Adam Napier and Noah Hoang also scored during the spurt.
“Rocko is a phenomenal player and he does some great things,” first-year head Mustangs head coach Nathan Clark. “He’s getting better every day. He’s working with running backs coach (Jason) Napier and offensive line coach (Michael) Pfiester to try to make sure they are hitting those holes and following the right blocks.”
Superb offensive line play has given the Mustangs, who led 14-3 at halftime, more than a fighting chance.
“I am so proud of the offensive line for opening up those holes,” Clark said.
Clark was also pleased with what the win did for the entire South Effingham community.
“It feels great,” he said. “I am so happy for the players and the fans. That is who I am happy for. They’ve worked so hard, especially the seniors.
“We were just fortunate tonight. We are giving up too many big returns but other than our kickoff team we are doing good on special teams.
“I am so happy for these people here in this community. This is special. It is not like this everywhere. This is a special thing that’s going on. I told the team you better enjoy it because a lot of people don’t.”
It was estimated that nearly 5,000 people were in attendance and Jackson admitted that the big crowd added to his motivation to put on a show.
“It always feels great to have so many people here,” Jackson said. “You want to give the fans what they came to watch. And then you want to have a little bit of bragging rights.”
Rebels head coach Buddy Holder, who team fell to 1-2, said it is important that his players don’t allow themselves to be dragged down by their defeat.
“They all fought hard,” he said. “I am proud of them. We are a young team. You don’t define yourself and your season by one game.
“It should hurt a little bit because it is an important game but we have things we have to fix to be the very best team we can be.”
Randy Scott was the Rebels’s best offensive weapon against the Mustangs. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown and added a 19-yard scoring reception on a pass thrown by Zach Garcia.
Next week the Mustangs will face their first road against West Laurens in Dexter. The Raiders dropped South Effingham 37-0 last year but Jackson is confident heading into the contest as his offense is averaging 44 points per game.
“West Laurens is a great team,” Jackson said. “They are 3-0 just like us. Putting up a lot of points against them is the goal.
“We want to win the first play, win the first quarter and then win that game. Take it play by play.”
Jackson has done a good job of making the offense go, Clark said.
“He’s a playmaker and he makes some unbelievable plays,” the coach explained. “He is locked in and he is cutting down his mistakes every week. He’s become a leader. I am so proud his leadership.”
Effingham County will host Statesboro on Friday at 7:30 p.m.