SPRINGFIELD — The scoreboard showed a one-sided result. Yet first-year Bradwell Institute head coach Greg Hill believes there were enough productive moments to keep his young team optimistic.
The Tigers fell 30-12 to Effingham County, dropping to 0-6 on the season and 0-4 in Region 3-AAAAA. Effingham, now 5-2 on the season, kept its playoff hopes intact with a 3-2 region record.
The Rebels rolled up 448 yards of offense and never trailed, though the Tigers tried to keep within striking distance.
“We see it in spurts,” Hill said. “We have to get consistent. Right now, we’re just not consistent. We’ll have a good drive going, and we’ll do something to back us up. I think our kids fought. They’re going to fight every game, and I’m proud of them in that aspect. We’re going to continue to grow.”
The Rebels scored on their opening possession, as PJ Brown, who had three touchdown passes, hit Ashton King over the middle for 31 yards.
Nieem Bartley’s 19-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter stretched the lead to 14-0, but the Tigers responded. Duane Johnson rambled for 37 yards on an option keeper, and Dangelo Smith plowed his way for 11 yards to the Rebels 2. Two plays later, Trevon McCoy bulled in from the 1. The Rebels blocked the point after try.
Brown and Effingham wasted little time to answer. Brown hit freshman DeMario Gant on a slant, and Gant streaked past the Tigers secondary for a 67-yard touchdown. Effingham’s margin grew to 21-6 with 9:21 to go before halftime.
Evan Crystal’s punt, thanks to Shaun Maschino’s diving attempt to keep the ball out of the end zone, pinned the Rebels at their own 3. But behind Bartley and Brown, the Rebels pushed their way to the Tigers 28.
On third down with a minute to go, Lorenzo Brinson picked off Brown’s pass and charged toward midfield. Brinson, however, fumbled, and the Rebels recovered at BI’s 46 with 41.6 seconds left. Effingham turned that into Ben Heller’s 35-yard field goal as the first half expired for a 24-6 advantage.
“That was a momentum shift, and it’s been that kind of season for us,” Hill said. “We keep having opportunities to keep the game tight and get the momentum to swing, and the ball just doesn’t bounce our way. I’ve never been a part of anything like that. You have to have a little luck on your side, and we don’t have any.”
As the Rebels defense held Bradwell in check for the third quarter, Brown capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown toss to Josh Vanderark.
Bradwell’s defense then turned in three straight impressive series. First, Brinson leaped to snare Jake Dangerfield’s pass near the BI 30 and raced 70 yards with the interception to cut the lead to 30-12. The Tigers held on third down at their own 16 and forced a field goal try that Heller missed from 33 yards out. Then, the Tigers stopped the Rebels on fourth-and-1 as Brinson shot through to trip up Dameon Roper for a 1-yard loss.
Smith ripped off a 33-yard gain two plays later, and Michael Moore, the third Tigers quarterback of the night, completed three straight passes to get the Tigers to the Effingham 34. Williams scrambled for six yards on fourth down, and a late hit gave Bradwell the ball at the Rebels 14. But Williams threw three consecutive incompletions, and the Rebels took over for the game’s last snap.
Brown, who was 12-of-17 for 216 yards, also ran for 62 yards and Bartley had 124 yards rushing on 17 carries.
“They play hard and they get after it,” Hill said of the Rebels, “and that’s a testament to the coaching staff over there. You can tell those kids have gotten better and that’s where we want our program to get to. With the weightroom, that’s going to pay dividends.”
Williams was 4-of-9 passing for 27 yards, and Smith ran seven times for 72 yards. Johnson had 46 yards on four attempts. Luther Echols was held to 22 yards on seven carries.
“One of the things I wanted to do was to see our defense play with a little more emotion,” Rebels coach Buddy Holder said. “We’ve played and played and played methodically, but defensively, you’ve got to play with emotion. I want to see us play with a little more emotion, a little more excitement.”
The Tigers will host Statesboro (1-5, 1-3) on Oct. 17 at Olvey Field.