by RON WEATHERFORD
The ECI Bulldogs traveled to Sylvania Friday to take on Screven Co. in the first region game for both teams. The Gamecocks dropped down to Class A from AA after winning their appeal to GHSA.
Both teams were off last week after Screven cancelled a non-region game. The Bulldogs were coming off their scheduled bye week after defeating Vidalia the week before.
The 0-2 Gamecocks got their first win of the season after being soundly defeated by Savannah Christian and SE Bulloch. Screven sent the Bulldogs back to Twin City edging ECI 18-14.
Screven used their superior size in the middle of the line to gain needed yardage to keep drives alive keeping the ball away from the Bulldog offense.
Both teams were stopped on their first drives with both defenses stopping the offense on 3 and outs.
Screven got untracked on their next possession driving 82 yards for their first score on a 22-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chase Hart. Extra point was no good for a 6-0 Gamecock lead.
Natavus Robertson gave the Bulldogs a short field after taking the ensuing kickoff back 62 yards down to the Gamecocks 29-yard line. ECI squandered the short field and scoring opportunity fumbling on the second play giving the ball back to Screven Co.
The Gamecocks got their second touchdown of the game early in the second quarter. The Screven punt returner turned the corner for a touchdown to extend their lead.
Down 12-0 the Bulldogs got on the board in the second quarter using a combination of passes and run game on an 80-yard drive. On fourth and 11 from the Screven 30 ECI extended the drive on a Chase Whitehead pass to Lawson Mercer for 22 yards down to the Gamecocks 8. PJ Farnum took it the rest of the way on the next play to make the score 12-7 with 5:49 left in the half.
The Bulldogs got their first break of the game when the Screven kickoff returner fumbled the ball setting up ECI at the Gamecock 14-yard line.
DJ Jones took it down to the Screven 3 on an 11-yard run to make it first and goal at the three.
ECI was stopped for no gain on the next 2 plays and were pushed back to the 16- yard line on a holding penalty on third down. The drive and scoring opportunity ended when Farnum was tackled at the one on a pass from Whitehead on fourth down. The half ended with the Gamecocks leading 12-7.
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 59 yards on a 7-minute drive to take the 14-12 lead on a 4-yard run by Farnum.
The Gamecocks took back the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run. Two-point try was no good and Screven led 18-14 with 11 minutes left in the game.
ECI was stopped on their next drive. Punter Bryce Kearson put the Gamecocks in the hole with ECI downing the ball at the Screven 2-yard line.
The Bulldogs had a chance to get the ball back with great field position. On third and 12 from their own one-yard line, Hart dropped a perfect pass in double coverage to WR Markovcic for a 34-yard gain to get Screven out of the hole having to punt out of their own endzone.
The Gamecocks ran out the clock handing the Bulldogs their first region loss 18-14.
The stats were almost even with Screven having 260 to the Bulldogs 215. ECI played a clean game penalty wise with just 4 infractions. But they seemed to come at inopportune times, one negating a long kickoff return deep in Gamecock territory.
The Bulldogs had their lowest rushing output in several years with just 86 yards on the ground on 28 carries. It was the first time in many years that ECI had more passing yards than rushing.
Farnum led in rushing carrying the ball 13 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitehead was sharp on the night going 10-14 for 129 yards. Kearson was his favorite target catching 5 passes for 77 yards. Mercer grabbed two for 33 yards, Farnum 1 for 15 and Jones 1 for 5 yards.
Samuel McBride who has been perfect on extra points this season was 2-2 for the game.