By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Class A Public School Title Game (11:30 a.m.)
Dooly County (11-2) vs. Emanuel County Institute (12-1)
Overview: Dooly County finished in a three-way tie for first in Region 4A and entered the tournament as a No. 5 seed on the public school side, yet unranked in the AJC Top 10. The school was created in 1981 by the merging of Vienna and Unadilla High Schools, and is seeking its first state title. Emanuel County Institute is the Region 3 champion and entered the tournament as a No. 3 seed ranked No. 2 in the AJC Top 10. The Bulldogs from tiny Twin City, population 1,700, won a Class A title in 2007 and claim another in 1923 after a 7-0 season.
ECI season: The Bulldogs lone loss of the season was to AAA Washington County (48-22). Other than that, no other team has come within a touchdown of defeating ECI, whose closest games were a 14-6 win over Claxton on Sept. 21 and a 38-27 victory over No. 2 seeded Wilcox County in last week’s semifinals.
Dooly County season: After a loss to Marion County (12-7) on Oct. 14, which ended the Bobcats’ region title hopes, Dooly County has won six straight to reach the state title game for the second time in school history. The Bobcats were a perfect 14-0 in 1983 before they were blown out in the AA title game by West Rome (35-0). Their only other loss of this season was to No. 2 seed Wilcox County, 28-14, on Sept. 14.
ECI strength: The Bulldogs rely heavily on their ground game and feature five running backs who have gained at least 300 yards. The leader of the bunch is senior Greg Purcell with 1,028 and 13 touchdowns. The defense is fast and aggressive, led by senior linebacker Taiwan Daughtry, who has 113 tackles and four sacks.
Dooly strength: The Bobcats best unit is its defense, which is anchored by senior defensive lineman Montravius Adams, considered by many to be the top high school lineman in America. Adams also plays running back at times, is the team’s place kicker and averages 35 yards per punt as well. But he is far from a one-man show. Linebackers Jalil Brown and Mark Lloyd are solid and safety Tay Daniels is a two-time all-region performer. On offense, sophomore running back Chanin Hamilton has rushed for 1,300 yards.
ECI’s top players: Other than Purcell, the ECI offense is paced by quarterback Caleb Pressey (880 yards passing, 15 touchdowns) and running back James Brown (993 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns). On defense, along with Daughtry, the leaders are defensive backs Renoldo Williams, a senior, and Dez Gatson, a junior, along with sophomore linemen Des Williams and Ronnie Gordon.
Dooly County’s top players: Along with Adams, Brown, Lloyd, Daniels and Hamilton, quarterback A.J. Smith runs the offense smoothly. His best sport is basketball, however, where he is a Division I recruit at guard.
On ECI: “They are big, fast and athletic with two 1,000-yard runners. If we had played them, the only way we could have beaten them is if we blocked a kick and got them to turn the ball over.” – Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell, who studied film of the Bulldogs in case his team were to face them in the playoffs.
On Dooly County: “They are very good defensively, very good. But they will have a tough time scoring on ECI. The only touchdown they scored on us came on a blocked field goal that they returned 90 yards for a touchdown in the final minute before halftime.” – Campbell, whose Red Devils lost to Dooly County, 10-7, in last week’s semifinals.
AJC Pick: ECI 20, Dooly 10