Mother Nature was doing everything she could to keep the Long County Blue Tide football team from opening its 2018 season. However, the team was able to take the field Saturday morning (Aug. 18), but traveled back to Ludowici with a loss to the South Effingham Mustangs.
The Blue Tide waited out the lightning for as long as it could before heading home late Friday night (Aug. 17) and later agreeing to meet Saturday morning in Guyton at 11 a.m.
The Mustangs, who have posted a 2-20 record over the last two seasons, got the early jump on the Tide after their defense forced a punt on a three and out. From their own 26, Mustang quarterback Taylor Jackson found receiver Noah Hoang open on a slant and he raced 74 yards for the touchdown on their opening play. The two point conversion made the score 8-0.
The Blue Tide offense struggled to move the ball on the ensuing drive and punted after three plays again. The Mustangs found some room to run from as Trent Wimberly rumbled 25 yards to the Blue Tide 42 yard line.
Jackson hit Hoang again on a slant and he took the ball into the redzone. Two plays later, Wimberly trotted 15 yards into the endzone for the score, making the deficit 14-0 for South Effingham.
Late in the first quarter, the Tide offense finally got the break they needed as a Jacob Seal punt was muffed by the Mustangs and the Tide recovered at the South Effingham 34. The Tide looked to be in business as they pushed down inside the 20 yard line, but junior quarterback Treyon Davis threw an interception to end the first quarter.
The Mustangs used their momentum to march down the field, eventually capping off the drive with a 43-yard run from Larry Scott to take a 21-0 lead after the extra point.
The Tide were in good field position after a recovered onside punt at their own 49. Senior running back Kendall Lovett found some room on an off tackle run to the Mustang 34. However, the Blue Tide turned the ball over again, this time on a fumble at the Mustang 37.
South Effingham were driving with just minutes left on the clock in the first half. The Blue Tide got a big boost in the secondary from freshman defensive back Cole Moss, who made two big pass deflections to save likely touchdowns. The defense held strong and forced a three and out at their own 25.
The offense could not return the favor and were forced to punt on a three and out. With just over a minute left in the half, the Mustangs drove down inside the Tide 25. The defense held strong and forced a 40-yard field goal attempt. Liam Rickman’s attempt went wide right and the Mustangs’ lead held at 21-0 at halftime.
The Mustangs opened the second half from their own 31 and wasted little time moving down the field, taking just four plays to get inside the Tide 35. The defense turned it on with their backs against the wall and forced a second 40-yard attempt from Rickman. It fell short of the uprights and the Tide took over at their own 30.
The Tide found a little room to run up the middle with sophomore fullback E’ben Thomas. However, the Tide found themselves in trouble again as they fumbled the snap on a second down play and the Mustangs recovered at the Long County 40 yard line.
The Mustangs were driving and looking to put another score on the board. It looked as though they would do just that, but freshman defensive tackle Ruben Guadalupe knocked the ball out of the hands of the running back and the Tide forced its first turnover of the game at their own 20.
The Tide worked the middle of the line with fullbacks Maurice Carter and Thomas before calling a sweep to the right. Senior Troy Balsinger found room to run down the Tide sideline and raced 40 yards to the South Effingham 36 yard line as the third quarter came to a close with the score sticking at 21-0.
The Tide drove down inside the Mustang 20 yard line, the deepest they had been all game, and looked to finally get in the endzone before turning the ball over on downs.
The Mustangs took the ball and drove down inside Tide territory. They found the endzone again with Jackson finding receiver Antoine Sturdivant from 40 yards out to make the score 28-0 with eight minutes left in the game.
South Effingham put game away with just a minute left on the clock with a five yard run by quarterback Alex Cela. The Tide fell to the Mustangs by a final score 35-0.
The Blue Tide will look to get their first regular season win since August of 2016 when they host the Wayne County Yellow Jackets on Friday, Aug 24.