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Wildcats drop final home game
RHHS Wildcats

Richmond Hill fell 40-26 at home to Effingham Friday night and will travel next week for the first round of the GHSA playoffs.

The loss means the Wildcats are the No. 4 seed in the region and will play at Lee County at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Trojans are the No. 1 seed in Region 1-AAAAAA, finishing the regular season at 9-1, 3-1 in the region. A win against Effingham would have given Richmond Hill the No. 2 seed in the region and a home game for the first round of the playoffs.

What looked like it was going to be a low-scoring affair after a 6-6 halftime tie turned into a wild game with six touchdowns in the final eight minutes.

It was the second consecutive loss for the Wildcats, who fell 56-34 to Brunswick at home last week. Richmond Hill finishes the regular season at 7-2 overall and 2-2 in Region 2-AAAAAA.

“The last two weeks, we’ve struggled with our kicking game, with tackling, with running the ball and with throwing the ball,” Wildcats Coach Matt LeZotte said. “We haven’t played well in anything we’ve done.”

Richmond Hill scored first on a three-yard touchdown by Maurice Smith but Joseph Petrino’s point-after was blocked, putting the Wildcats up 6-0 with 3:23 left in the first quarter. The Rebels answered with 2:22 left in the half but missed the extra point, sending the teams to the locker room tied 6-6.

Effingham took a 12-6 lead on a 43-yard touchdown run three minutes into the second half, then scored again and was successful on the two-point conversion for a 20-6 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Kasey Green hit Aaron Bedgood in the end zone from 11 yards out to pull the Wildcats to 20-12 with eight minutes left in the game. A 46-yard touchdown by Effingham put the rebels up 27-12 three minutes later, but Green hit Sam James for a touchdown just 20 seconds after that. Petrino’s extra point was good and Richmond Hill trailed 27-19 with 5:09 left.

Green’s pass came on second-and-10 from Richmond Hill’s own 34, and James took the ball away from two Rebel defenders at the Effingham 35 and outran them to the end zone.

On its first play from scrimmage at the 20 after the kickoff, Effingham scored on an 80-yard run to take a 34-19 lead with 4:56 left. The Rebels would score again on a 73-yard run with 2:54 remaining for a 40-19 lead.

Smith scored again on a one-yard run and Petrino’s PAT was good with 1:36 to go in the game to close out the scoring.

Smith finished with 121 yards on 29 carries, while Bedgood had 190 all-purpose yards. James finished with three catches for 89 yards. Green was 14-for-29 passing for 239 yards. Nico DeCosta led the Wildcat defense with 11 tackles, while Andrew Purcell added six tackles and a sack.

“We’ll be fine,” LeZotte said. “We have to take a very long bus ride now and play a very good Lee County team.”

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