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PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Leesburg excited to host first playoff game since 2005

The Region 1-AAAAA champion Trojans will play Effingham County

Lee County receiver JQ Quimbley ranks in the Top 35 in the state and led all WRs in Region 1-AAAAA with 759 receiving yards and 12 TDs heading into today’s opening-round playoff game against Effingham County. (Darrell Waters/Special to The Herald)

Lee County receiver JQ Quimbley ranks in the Top 35 in the state and led all WRs in Region 1-AAAAA with 759 receiving yards and 12 TDs heading into today’s opening-round playoff game against Effingham County. (Darrell Waters/Special to The Herald)

LEESBURG — Things have been a little different in Lee County this week.

There are a few more signs promoting high school football than usual.

More businesses have painted store-front windows to support the Trojans.

And the marquee signs in front of most businesses are lettered with “Go Trojans.”

It’s the playoffs for Lee County High School and there’s an excitement in this town that hasn’t been seen in quite some time — at least since 2005 when the school won its last region championship.

Advance playoff tickets flew off the shelves for the Region 1-AAAAA champions, who will play host to Effingham County tonight in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

“Our community and our kids are excited,” Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “One of our goals was to host a playoff game.”

One thing Fabrizio hopes doesn’t happen is for his team to get caught up in the excitement and overlook the Rebels.

Effingham County (6-4) is led by tailback Bartley Nieem, who has rushed for more than 800 yards. The Rebels have a solid offensive front led by senior Cheyenne West, who is drawing considerable interest from several small Division I colleges.

But defense may be Effingham’s backbone. The Rebels are led by a pair of standout linebackers in Kennesaw State commit Dalton Mydell and junior Daquare Hunter, who was selected to play in the Elite Junior Class All-Star Football game later this year at McEachern High School in Powder Springs.

Effingham coach Buddy Holder has been impressed with Lee County’s success this season.

“They have a lot of speed and size,” Holder said. “I know their quarterback Stephen Collier has committed to Ohio State. When you have that kind of combo, we know we’ve definitely got to execute to beat a team like that.”

While Collier and the offense may garner most of the headlines, it’s Lee County’s defense that has been sound during the Trojans’ three-game winning streak. They are allowing just seven points per game during their current streak, which includes victories over playoff-bound schools Harris County and Bainbridge.

In last week’s win, Bainbridge didn’t score until the third quarter after the Trojans (9-1) had built a comfortable 17-0 halftime advantage.

“Defensive coordinator Jhon Smith and his staff have done an excellent job,” Fabrizio said. “They may be a little undersized but they sell out and play hard.”

Fabrizio singled out secondary players Da’Quaun Jamison, Kevin Hopkins and Jalen Bush, the team’s only three senior starters on defense, for their play this season.

“They’ve been leaders all year, and they’ve helped guide those younger players,” he said.

Fabrizio iterated that his team needs to play well to beat Effingham County. With the Trojans earning the region title and the No. 1 seed, a victory would earn them a trip to the second round, which would also be played in Leesburg.

That would generate a little more excitement in the community.