By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
In this technology driven age, even a small town like Twin City – population 1,752, 3.6 square miles, and home of the Emanuel County Institute Bulldogs – has a Wikipedia page. But it fails to mention one of the biggest things the town is known for: ground-and-pound football.
ECI (13-1)let that be known again Saturday morning in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs rolled up 353 yards rushing against Dooly County (11-3) — in spite of the presence of 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle Montravius Adams — on the way to a 47-7 rout in the Class A public school championship game.
“We run the ball at ECI,” said senior offensive lineman Gunnar Brown. “We don’t like all that passing stuff. We have a couple of passing plays we practice, but that’s it.”
“Ain’t nothing new, that’s what we do,” said senior running back Greg Purcell, who plays the role of “Batman” in the Bulldog backfield duo that features him and fellow senior James “Robin” Brown. Purcell rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns, while Brown added 136 yards, one touchdown on the ground and one through the air – an electrifying, one-handed catch and run that covered 53 yards and boosted ECI’s lead to 34-7, late in the third quarter.
But it was Brown’s interception and 50-yard return to the Bobcats’ 23-yard line early in the first quarter, on Dooly County’s first offensive play of the game, that appeared to ignite the Bulldog offense. The pick came after Dooly’s defense prevented ECI from scoring on its first offensive drive for just the second time in 14 games this season.
“We’re used to taking the ball down and scoring first,” ECI head coach Chris Kearson said. “So that interception was big. It got us going.”
Purcell scored from 1-yard out on the ensuing drive to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. After ECI forced the Dooly offense to go three-and-out, Purcell dashed 50 yards on the second play of the Bulldogs’ next drive to push the lead to 14-0.
Dooly responded with its only scoring drive of the game, marching 66 yards on seven plays, with most of the damage being done by sophomore running back Chanin Hamilton, who gained 53 yards on five carries on the drive, including a 19-yarder for a touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7.
But ECI answered right away, driving 80 yards on eight plays – all but one of them on the ground – with Brown scoring from 26 yards out to make the score 20-7 at halftime.
Midway thorough the second quarter, Adams – who was being neutralized by the Bulldog’s offensive line – suffered an ankle injury and was even more ineffective the rest of the period. He made just one appearance in the second half before sitting out the rest of the game, as ECI poured it on with 20 points in the third quarter.
“Not only did that hurt us physically with some of the things we wanted to do on offense and defense, it hurt our kids mentally, too,” said Dooly County head coach Jimmy Hughes. “They’re used to leaning on him a lot. But I’m proud of our kids and proud of the way they fought. That’s a great ECI team over there. Coach [Chris] Kearson is to be commended for the job he and his coaches are doing.”
“As coaches, we told them all week, ‘Hey, they are a bunch of run stoppers,’” Kearson said of the Dooly County defensive front. “But we’re a running team and it was just a tremendous effort by our kids today.”
Dooly County 0 7 0 0 7
Emanuel County Institute 14 6 20 7 47
ECI – Greg Purcell 1 run (Caleb Pressley kick)
ECI – Purcell 50 run (Pressley kick)
DC – Chanin Hamilton 19 run (Diego Cruz kick)
ECI – James Brown 26 run (pass failed)
ECI – Pressley 4 run (Renaldo Williams run)
ECI – Brown 53 pass from Pressley (kick failed)
ECI – Purcell 4 run (kick failed)
ECI – Williams 3 run (Pressley kick)