By Craig Sager II
After a 47-43 loss in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the ECI Bulldogs were able to go the distance this season and hoist the 2012 Class A-Public championship trophy after rolling over the Dooly County Bobcats 47-7.
The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and on third down, Caleb Pressey tried to find James Brown in double coverage and an incompletion forced a rare punt for the explosive offense.
The Bobcats took over and quarterback A.J. Smith went deep on play-action. Brown, now on defense, took it from receiver Cortney Clark and returned it to the 23-yard line.
Brown and Greg Purcell would share the carries, and after gaining tough yardage against the Montravius Adams-led defense, Purcell stepped his way into the end zone to give ECI the early lead.
On the following Bobcat possession, the aggressive Bulldog defense overwhelmed Smith’s rhythm and the offense. Running back Chanin Hamilton was swarmed and tackled for a loss of five by Troy Randall, Dez Gatson and Renaldo Williams. After being forced into a third and long, the airtight coverage forced Smith to scramble and Troy Randall got the sack to push Dooly County farther back.
On the ensuing drive, Purcell exploded for a 50-yard touchdown, running through Kris Lundy to fall into the end zone for his second score. The lead went to two touchdowns, and even after a Hamilton gain of 16 on the next possession for the Bobcats, ECI had out-gained them 82 to five yards in the opening quarter.
Hamilton continued fighting through the gang of ECI tacklers and was able to escape up the middle for a big gain to the 19-yard line. On the next play, he exploded to the outside and into the end zone for Dooly County’s only points of the game.
When ECI needed an answer to a Bobcat burst of momentum, the Bulldogs got that and more from playmakers Brown and Purcell. Brown moved the chains with spin moves and yards after contact on the following drive, and, from the 26 yard line, followed a lead block from running mate Purcell and another key block that came downfield from teammate Harvey Washington that allowed him to find the end zone. The point after was mishandled, but the lead was back to two scores.
Smith struggled connecting with his targets, and when he could find an opening in the coverage, costly drops continued. This gave the ECI offense more than enough time to continue wearing down the Bobcat defense, and in the second quarter, an illegal cut block would hurt the muscle of the already winded defense. The powerful defensive tackle Adams went down with an apparent ankle injury on the flagged play and was unable to return effectively the rest of the game.
With the defense already on its heels and the Adams injury now looming over the Dooly County bench, the Bobcats struggled to put a stop to the onslaught of Bulldog offense.
The second half opened with another dropped pass from Dooly County and the red-hot Bulldog offense opened up the lead in the third quarter. Brown gained a tough 15 yards by busting through three tackles. On the following play, Brown hopped over a fallen teammate and hit the sideline all the way down to the 3-yard line before Mark Lloyd tackled him midair and hard into the boundary. Brown stayed down momentarily after the collision with Lloyd and had to come out of the game.
“I wasn’t hurt after the play,” Brown laughed after the game. “I just needed to catch my breath.”
With Brown on the sideline, quarterback Caleb Pressley scored on the keeper and a two-point conversion run from Renaldo Williams put the score at 28-7.
The defense forced another three and out, enabling Brown to make the play of the game. Brown’s spectacular reach back one-handed catch between two defenders broke for a 63-yard sprint to the end zone and had the Bulldog Nation rocking.
“I can’t wait to watch the replay again,” said Brown. “I’m glad I could make plays and help us get the win today.”
On the kickoff following the Brown touchdown, Kenny Butler recovered the live ball when Lloyd and Javarious Hardrick could not decide who should field the bouncing kickoff. Purcell would go on to score his third touchdown of the game. Later Renaldo Williams scored the final ECI touchdown to push the lead to the final score of 47-7.
“To have your team come out and play together and play this well on the biggest stage and in the biggest game is just awesome,” said a proud ECI coach Chris Kearson.