by RON WEATHERFORD
The ECI Bulldogs got their first region win Friday defeating Portal 42-20.
2020 has given coaches and programs different obstacles this season not having your team at full strength at practices and games.
“For the amount of injuries, quarantined players and players no longer with the program, I’m pretty pleased with the result of Friday’s game”, commented coach Chris Kearson. “We had a problem with turnovers, but it evened out. We are razor thin in a few places, but our kids keep stepping up”.
After stopping the Panthers on their first drive on a 3 and out, the Bulldogs scored the first points of the game. Chase Whitehead hit tight end Lawson Mercer in stride for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Extra point was good and ECI led 7-0.
ECI gave the Panthers a gift on their next drive. Backed up to their own 5 yard line, the Bulldogs fumbled setting up Portal first and goal at the ECI 9.
The Panthers took advantage of the short field scoring from 2 yards out to tie the score 7-7.
ECI took back the lead early in the second quarter when Cordarius Lee found the endzone from 2 yards out for a 14-7 Bulldog lead.
Both teams traded fumbles in the middle of the second quarter to end drives.
ECI extended their lead in the middle of the quarter when DJ Jones bulled over from the 9 to put the Bulldog ahead 21-7.
Portal drove to the ECI 8 due mostly to two questionable pass interference calls. With just a few seconds left in the half Portal had time for just one play at the Bulldog 8 yard line.
Blitzing the Portal quarterback on the pass play, linebacker Michael Kelly grabbed his own batted ball and raced 90 yards as the horn sounded to put the Bulldogs up 28-7 at halftime.
Portal cut the lead in half early in the third quarter. The Bulldogs gave the Panthers their second gift of the night on a fumble return for touchdown from the ECI 7 to make the score 28-14.
The Bulldogs took back the 21 point lead in the middle of the quarter. Trey Hughes took a Whitehead handoff 38 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 35-14 with 7:42 left in the third.
Unable to run on the Bulldogs the Panthers took to the air on their next drive. On the third play the Panther quarterback hit his receiver for a 47-yard touchdown pass for a 35-20 score.
The Bulldogs held on to the ball for the majority of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs’ last scoring drive was 80-yards taking seven minutes off the clock. They scored their final points of the night when a leaping Kobe Allen caught a Whitehead pass in the endzone from 27 yards out to make the final score 42-20.
The Bulldog run defense put their foot down in the second half limiting the Panthers to minus 4 yards rushing. On the night Portal was held to just 40 yards on the ground.
The Bulldogs were susceptible to the pass giving up 132 yards through the air on just 5 receptions.
ECI used a stable of 7 running backs to rush for 248 yards. DJ Jones led the ground attack carrying the ball 15 times for 110 yards.
Whitehead was 4-7 passing for 100 yards with two touchdowns. Mercer caught 2 balls for 58 yards with Bryce Kearson and Kobe Allen grabbing the other two receptions.
Samuel McBride was again perfect for the night going 6 for 6 on extra points.
ECI had some key players out due to injuries and Covid protocols and hope to get some of those players back in the lineup this Friday.
The Bulldogs host McIntosh Co. Friday night at Rountree Stadium. ECI defeated the Bucs in a physical game 28-23 in the first round of the state playoffs in 2019. McIntosh is 3-2 on the season winning their last 3 games against Charlton, Bryan and Claxton.