SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Welcome to 15 Teams in 15 Days! This is WSAV’s annual high school football preview series where we do a deep dive on a new team for each of the first 15 days of August. This year, we will ask and answer four standard questions of each team, which are all listed below:

Why are you interesting?

Few teams in South Georgia had a glow-up as big as the Effingham County Rebels did in 2021.

The Rebs went from a 3-7 record in 2020 to a 6-4 mark in 2021. Hard-fought home wins over Glynn Academy and Statesboro were some of the highlights of the season, as was a near-miss at knocking off undefeated region champ Brunswick in the regular season’s final week.

Before Effingham County can get back there, they’ll have to figure out who their new quarterback is going to be. Head coach John Ford said four or five players are still in the mix.

“Their job is to move the sticks. We’ll know in about a week-and-a-half who is going out against Richmond Hill.”

Whoever does earn the job will get to play behind a beefy offensive line, led by senior Desmond Montgomery. Fellow senior lineman Trey Gordy is definitely a fan.

“Oh man, Desmond, he can squat like 500-something pounds,” Gordy said. “And Sam Jarriel, man he’s a beast, he’s been strong, he’s had a beard since 7th grade or 4th grade or something like that; he’s insane. He can bench 350.”

Who are your dudes?

The Rebels played all of last season without star wide receiver and defensive back Keion Wallace, who had shoulder surgery that kept him on the sideline.

Before that injury, Wallace had earned college offers from Ole Miss and Texas A&M, among others. His 6-foot-3 frame and long arms give him the physical profile of a Division I wideout.

His return should provide an immediate boost to the Rebels.

“I mean, it’s a tremendous boost,” Ford said. “Obviously he was starting at two positions last year, at the bandit position on defense and at our X receiver. So losing him was like losing two starters because we had to replace him at the X with Timmy Brown and at bandit with Trent Robinson. And they both did awesome jobs and had great seasons. But getting him back is like having two starters back.”

Gordy also named running back/linebacker Colton Oglesby as a breakout candidate.

“He’s been playing a little bit on and off since he was a freshman,” Gordy said. “Every time he gets the ball, he just gets body-slammed, but he gets right back up,”

What’s up with your coach?

The voice of second-year head coach John Ford is audible all over the Effingham County practice field.

Ford is far from all talk, though; his experience and results form quite the resume. Prior to his time with the Rebels, Ford coached at both Buford and Roswell, two schools near Atlanta. He won a pair of region titles at both places and even led Roswell to back-to-back state runner-up trophies in 2015 and 2016.

His first year at Effingham County produced the program’s best record since 2018.

During his introductory meet-and-greet with parents in 2021, Ford spoke about his vision of creating alignment between the high school program and the various youth teams in the county.

So far, that project is progressing as planned.

“I’m feeling good so far,” Ford said. “It’s a daily process. It’s relationship-building, which you can’t fake. It takes time. We’ve got two middle schools that feed into us – Effingham County Middle next door and Ebenezer, which is down the road. I think really highly of their coaches and kids.”

When’s the big game?

Do you want to see what high school football in the south is really all about? Then clear your calendar for Friday, Sept. 23.

That’s when Effingham County hosts crosstown rival South Effingham in a game that’s sure to shut the whole town of Springfield down for the evening.

“It was just a great atmosphere for high school football,” Ford said of his first experience with the rivalry. “By the time pregame warmups were done, every seat was full, it was standing room only. Football in Effingham County has a lot of potential. Coach (Nathan) Clark over at South Effingham does an awesome job.”

Effingham County has won five of the last six contests against the Mustangs, including a 34-0 blowout on the road in Guyton last year.

South Effingham wide receiver and defensive back Jaden Sanders initially attended Effingham County before transferring to the Mustangs. Having played on both sides of the rivalry, Sanders is in a better position than anyone to know how intense it truly is.

“Everyone wants to compete and battle. The best team wins. It’s about the blood, sweat and tears that goes into it. That’s like the playoffs for Effingham and South. Being on both sides before, I just feel like it means a lot.”