Bulldogs fall to Tigers in overtime thriller
by Emanuel County Live | August 31, 2010 12:00 am
By: CHRIS LEWIS
For the first time since 1987, the ECI Bulldogs played the Swainsboro Tigers in a regular season football game. This game had a little bit of everything—huge crowd, turnovers, penalties, smash-mouth, finesse and a thrilling finish in overtime. When it was all said and done, the Bulldogs came up short and fell to the Tigers by a score of 15-14 in overtime.
After both teams sputtered on their opening offensive series, the Tigers got on the board first. Swainsboro’s Dustin Kirkland intercepted a pass attempt from Caleb Pressey and gave the Tigers the ball deep in ECI territory. A few plays later, Tiger running back Quan Gardner bounced off several Bulldog defenders and rumbled in from 19 yards out to put Swainsboro on top 7-0 after Marcos Batista’s PAT.
Midway through the second quarter, ECI evened the score when Buck Moody broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run. Pressey’s successful PAT made the score 7-7 with 5:10 remaining in the first half. The score remained 7-7 at the end of the first half after both squads failed to produce a meaningful drive from that point.
The second half of regulation was filled with scoring opportunities for both teams, but neither was able to take advantage of those chances.
With 5:44 remaining in the third quarter, ECI faced a fourth and 6 from the Swainsboro 8-yard line. The Bulldogs lined up to kick a field goal but ran a fake instead and the Tigers sniffed it out and stopped the play short of the first down.
When asked about the decision to run the fake, Turner replied, “A decision like that has to be made in a split second. We saw something on film and had a good feeling we could get the yardage we needed there. I knew our defense was playing tough and that worst case scenario, we don’t get it (first down) and we let our defense take over in great field position. I just thought we needed a touchdown there.”
The Bulldog defense held and again put the offense in position to score deep in Tiger territory. But the Swainsboro defense was up to the challenge again. On fourth and goal from the Tiger 1-yard line, Pressey attempted to sneak it in but was met at the line of scrimmage and stopped there by a host of Tiger defenders.
The Tigers had their chances in the second half as well, but each time the Bulldog defense rose to the occasion, forcing Swainsboro into two field goal attempts that failed.
After both teams neglected to score in the fourth period, the game moved to overtime. Both coaches agreed before the start of the game that in the event of a tie at the end of regulation, overtime would be played to determine a winner. The overtime format gives each team a possession starting at the opposing team’s 15-yard line. Once an offense scored or turned the ball over, the other team would get the same chance.
Swainsboro won the coin toss and elected to let the Bulldogs have the first overtime possession. That decision would prove to be pivotal in this contest. After ECI running back Renaldo Williams ran the ball for 13 yards down to the Tiger 1, Wezley Ealey scored from one yard out. Pressey added the PAT and the Bulldogs took their first lead at 14-7.
Then it was Swainsboro’s turn. On first down, Bulldog defender Troy Randall sacked Tiger quarterback Lynquez Blair for a 15-yard loss. Then on second down, Swainsboro was penalized five yards for an ineligible receiver. Facing a second and 30 at the Bulldog 35-yard line, Blair found Fazon Parrish open and hit him for a 20-yard gain to the Bulldog 15-yard line. After an incompletion made it fourth and 10, Tiger receiver Laharold Lott found an opening in the ECI secondary and Blair hit him for a 15-yard touchdown pass that made the score 14-13.
The Tigers, perhaps wary of the fact they had missed two short field goals in the second half, decided to go for the two-point conversion to decide the game. Blair took the snap from the shotgun, found a small opening and just punched it in from three yards out to give the Tigers a hard fought 15-14 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs seemed to control the line of scrimmage and gained 233 yards on the ground compared to 136 for the Tigers. Blair appeared to be at his best when he was forced out of the pocket relying on his quickness to run or find receivers. ECI finished with 284 total yards while Swainsboro gained 242 yards. But on the scoreboard, the Tigers escaped with a one point victory.
“We certainly had our opportunities but we were not able to finish drives. When you get into the red zone, you have to make it count and we didn’t do that tonight,” said Turner. “It was like a heavyweight fight. Both teams stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out until the end. They (Swainsboro) made plays when they had to and we didn’t.”
ECI turned the ball over four times (three fumbles and one interception) while Swainsboro had three such miscues (two interceptions and one fumble).
“That was definitely a playoff type atmosphere and a great way to start the season. I believe it will go a long way in preparing our kids for the season ahead and it generated great excitement for our fans,” commented Turner.
Next up for the Bulldogs will be a trip to the Pecan Grove to face the Claxton Tigers. Claxton fell to AA Tattnall County at home in their first game last week by a score of 28-6. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.