HEPHZIBAH - It didn't take long for Todd Booker's fears to be realized Friday night. Coming off an emotional three-point upset of Laney last week, the second-year Hephzibah head coach wasn't sure how his squad would respond.
Not even a 90-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game by Rebels running back Reggie Hughes was enough to soothe an anxious Hephzibah coaching staff.
"When you're dealing with kids this age - 15, 16, 17, 18 years old - you never know how they're going to react," Booker said after the Rebels improved to 2-0 with a 32-6 victory over Josey. "That touchdown run was great, but we got way too relaxed. We didn't respond when we had the chance, and we've got to work on that. We were way too sloppy with the ball."
The Rebels overcame six fumbles - four in the first half - by rushing for 327 yards on 45 carries. Hughes led the way with 134 yards on nine attempts while senior quarterback Robert Hannah passed for two touchdowns and ran for another late score.
Despite jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead on Hughes' gallop, the Rebels had their hands full trying to contain Josey quarterback and big-play threat Rashad Roberts. The junior signal-caller twice led the Eagles into Hephzibah territory in the first quarter before the Rebel defense stiffened.
A 7-yard scoring strike from Hannah to junior end Bruce Lee gave the Rebels a 13-0 lead at the 8:53 mark of the second quarter. The Rebels appeared to be on the verge of taking command of the game, but instead fumbled on two straight possessions. Their second miscue, a bad snap over the head of Hannah on third-and-7 from their own 22-yard line, was recovered by Josey's Mikkos Thomas for a touchdown, and instantly the Eagles were back in the game, trailing 13-6.
"You've got to give Josey's defense a lot of credit, especially in the first half for the way they played," Booker said. "We hit them with that early score, but they didn't quit. They were really physical, and they put us in some bad spots on the field. They're so similar to Laney with all the team speed they have. They stopped us enough to keep them in the game."
It was the Hephzibah defense that was the story in the second half, however. The Rebels, who allowed 55 yards of offense in the first half, held Roberts and the Eagles offense without an offensive yard after halftime. Josey ran seven times for minus 16 yards, while Roberts completed two of 12 passes for 16 yards. His last nine pass attempts fell incomplete, and he finished the game 3-of-20 through the air.
While the Rebels' defense was working on a shutout, their offense picked up the pace. Richard Barry's 25-yard field goal gave the hosts a 16-6 lead early in the third quarter. Less than seven minutes later, Hannah connected with Eric Brown on a 20-yard scoring toss to push the Rebels advantage to 23-6.
A bad snap over the head of Josey punter Daniel Harmon resulted in a safety at the 5:22 mark of the fourth quarter, and Hannah capped the scoring with a 25-yard scoring jaunt with only 1:13 remaining in the game.
"It's great to win a game like this, but we made enough mistakes to last an entire season," Booker said. "We've got to find a way to hang onto the ball and not shoot ourselves in the foot. We're going to Statesboro next week, and this won't get it done against them. Our real season starts next Friday."
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