SPRINGFIELD — If he wasn’t wearing shoulder pads, you probably would have seen a humble shrug from Effingham County linebacker Tyler Wells.
The versatile junior and his teammates on defense registered five turnovers, blocked two extra-point kicks and held off surprisingly tough Bradwell Institute 14-12 on Friday at Rebel Field.
Wells contributed a blocked kick, an interception, caught a 5-yard pass on offense, returned a kickoff 11 yards and punted five times for a 45.2-yard average. The Rebels (3-5, 2-2 Region 2-6A) needed the help. They never trailed Bradwell, but an offense that managed only 131 yards and five first downs wasn’t pulling away from a team that lost its three previous region games by an average of nearly 27 points a game.
But ECHS’ defense made the small lead look big. The Rebels surrendered only one offensive touchdown and stopped two Bradwell drives in the red zone.
ECHS got off to a good start. On the second possession, a 32-yard screen pass from Zach Garcia to Devon Swinney set up Swinney’s 2-yard TD run on the next play for ECHS’ early 7-0 lead.
Bradwell (0-5-1, 0-4) inched closer late in the first quarter when Elijah Leiataua returned an interception for a touchdown, but Bryce Vanderhoek blocked the extra-point kick.
That something came quickly. A fumble recovery set up ECHS at the Bradwell 26 and four plays later, on fourth down, Miquel Allen broke an off-tackle run for a 17-yard TD and a 14-6 lead.
The Tigers responded by marching 62 yards on six plays, culminating the drive with a 31-yard scoring toss from Jahki Newton to Kamarion Melvin.
Although trailing by two, Bradwell elected to kick an extra point (6:05 still remained in the third quarter) but Wells blocked the kick.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Tigers appeared to get the go-ahead score on their next possession but a holding penalty negated a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Bradwell gave up the ball on downs at the 23. ECHS couldn’t gain a yard on its possession, but Wells, who had 58-yard and 48-yard punts earlier in the game, boomed a 62-yarder to get the Rebels out of harm’s way.