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Wildcats to face tough test at Effingham County

POSTED: October 11, 2012 6:50 p.m.
Juila Harrison/Bryan County News

Richmond Hill High School coach Lyman Guy and the Wildcats are on the road for the first time this season.

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Earlier this week, Richmond Hill High School was tabbed as the most improved football program in Class AAAAA by the Georgia High School Football Daily Newsletter and Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Wildcats (5-0) will get to put those laurels on the line Friday night in Springfield when they take on Effingham County High School (3-2). It’s Richmond Hill’s first road game of the season, meaning the Wildcats will be facing a hostile crowd for the first time.

They’ll also be facing a tough test in the Rebels, who have won three straight.

“Anytime you see teams like Effingham County that are constantly adjusting and improving week after week, you know have to be on top of your game to compete,” Richmond Hill coach Lyman Guy said. “They have a very, very good football team and they’re very well coached.”

Effingham County definitely has one of the state’s premiere coaches in Rick Tomberlin, whose career record in 30 seasons and at seven schools is 233-115. It includes three 15-0 state championship teams at WashingtonCounty, where Tomberlin built a powerhouse before leaving for Valdosta in 2005.

Tomberlin came to Effingham in 2009 after being fired from Valdosta in the wake of a 7-4 season that included a trip to the playoffs. The Rebels are 11-14 since he arrived in Springfield, but there are signs the program is starting to get traction.

After starting the season 0-2 with losses to Screven Countyand Benedictine, the Rebels have reeled off successive wins over South Effingham, Bradwell Institute and Windsor Forest.

Quarterback Cal Baker and running backs Marquise Herbert and Stewart Hamilton lead a group that has outscored opponents 96-35 during Effingham County’s three-game win streak.

“You know they’ll have a solid game plan for you,” Guy said of the Rebel coaching staff. “They’ll have the necessary wrinkles on offense to give you trouble defensively, they’ll know what to do on special teams to attack you and they scheme well defensively to get kids in positions to make plays. They’re a really solid program all the way around and they’re well coached.”
Guy, who has two Georgia Independent School Association state titles to his credit while at Robert Toombs Christian Academy, said making adjustments to what the Rebels do will be key for the Wildcats.

“It’s going to be critical that we’re able to adjust,” he said.

Add in the fact the Wildcats are on the road for the first time and students are on fall break, and Guy said it will be important for the Wildcats to respond to adversity.

“One big key for us is that we know there are going to be big moments in the game. Moments when things don’t go our way, either because the breaks will go against us or we’ll have a bad play or they’ll make a big play,” he said. “We can’t let any of that affect us. We’re going to have to overcome it to be successful.”

Health-wise, Richmond Hill is banged up but nothing out of the ordinary, Guy said, as the Wildcats look to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1994, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

Last season, Guy led Richmond Hill to a 6-4 mark, its first winning season since the 1996 Wildcats finished 9-4 under Billy McGrath.

They’ve been better this season.

Senior quarterback Dominique Allen, an early commit to the Air Force Academy, and senior running back David Katzman pace an offense that is averaging 35 points a game and doing 99 percent of its damage on the ground behind an offensive line that was named the McDonald’s/Bryan County News player of the week for its performance last week against Groves. So far this season, offensive linemen are paving the way for a running attack that is averaging 303.8 yards a game.

Katzman, who has set out nearly every second half this season, is already nearing 500 yards rushing with 499 yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries. Allen has 427 yards and seven TDs on 61 carries.

Junior Nick Fitzgerald, the heir apparent at quarterback for the Wildcats and a wide receiver to boot, has 221 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries – he also leads the team in receiving with seven catches for 101 yards and had two big touchdown catches during Richmond Hill’s 20-17 win over Glynn Academy.

Allen is 2 of 7 passing for 94 yards and two TDs.  Fitzgerald is 1 for 2 for 34 yards and a TD.

Richmond Hill’s defense has been equally impressive so far, posting three shutouts. Senior defensive end Zach Stegner (22 solo tackles, 2 fumbles recovered) and junior linebacker Zhane Roberts (21 solo tackles) lead a group that is adept at getting the ball back when opponents try to pass. Senior defensive back T.K. Grisby has two of the team’s eight interceptions.

The Wildcats’ kicking game could be key Friday night. Canon Rooker is a Middle Tennessee early commit and is considered a weapon on kickoffs. He also has a 19-yard field goal to his credit. Though seldom needed so far this season, junior punter Seth Vernau is averaging 33 yards a kick on just four punts.

“We’ll need a solid outing in all three phases of the game to have any success against a well coached team of Effingham’s caliber,” Guy said

 Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.


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