by RON WEATHERFORD
The ECI Bulldog football team’s season ended Friday in a loss against their longest
running rival, the Metter Tigers.
With the loss the Bulldogs will miss the state playoffs for the first time in 18 years. In order for the Bulldogs to make the playoffs they would have to beat Metter and Claxton, who lost to ECI earlier in the year, needed to defeat Screven Co. Claxton held up their end of the bargain taking the game against Screven 34-0.
Number one ranked Metter entered the game with the number one defense in Class A and second in state in all classifications allowing just 2.1 points per game.
“With the deck stacked against us, we had to have a win to continue our season and have some help. We got the help from Claxton but Metter had other plans,” commented coach Kearson.
It was going to take a near flawless game by the Bulldogs to pull off the win. But that was not to be, as ECI had 5 turnovers that ended drives including 2 pick sixes and a punt return for touchdown.
Before the fog dissipated after the Bulldogs took the field, the Tigers got on the board first. On the third play of the game Metter took an interception back 46 yards. Two-point try was good and the Tigers had an 8-0 lead.
The Bulldogs took it down to the Metter 15 yard line at the end of the first quarter but a holding penalty negated the play forcing another ECI punt.
After stopping Metter on fourth and goal at the three yard line early in the second quarter the Bulldogs took over. ECI was forced to punt out of their own endzone. Metter extended their lead when the Tiger punt returner took it down the sidelines for the touchdown putting ECI down 15-0.
ECI had the ball two more times in the second quarter. One drive ended on a fumble which the Tigers turned into a touchdown. The second ended when Metter took an interception back 77 yards as the horn sounded for their second pick 6 to put Metter up 30-0.
The Bulldog defense held Metter to just one offensive touchdown in the first half but found themselves down 30-0 with 22 points coming off turnovers.
On the first Metter possession of the second half the Tiger receiver took a short pass, broke several tackles and kept his balance for a 72 yard touchdown and a 37-0 lead.
ECI only had the ball twice in the third quarter. One possession ended on the first play for their second fumble of the night at the Bulldog 33 yard line.
Metter took advantage of the short field 13 plays later to take a 44-0 lead with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs committed their third fumble and fifth turnover of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter at their own 33.
Both JV teams played the rest of the game with ECI scoring their first touchdown of the game marching 80 yards. Jacorey Snelling put the last touchdown of the season on the board for the Bulldogs as Metter defeated ECI 44-7.
The Bulldogs rushed for 104 yards against the Tigers with Snelling leading on the ground with 6 carries for 52 yards. Whitehead was 2-4 for 15 yards in the passing game with DJ Jones and Bryce Kearson catching one each.
Coach Kearson had nothing but great things to say about his team’s grit and determination during the whole game. “Our kids, as hurt and short handed as they were fought hard. I love these kids and everything they represent. We’ll be back better than ever and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”
The Bulldog defense held the Tigers to just 113 yards on the ground and 266 total yards for the game.
This was a young Bulldog team with freshmen starting in key positions at center, linebacker, defensive line and defensive back. ECI will have a large senior class next year with 15 rising seniors on the roster.
With only 4 senior starters this year the Bulldogs return the bulk of their team for 2021. ECI returns 8 on offense and 8 on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs will be back in the weight room after the break getting ready for the 2021 season.
Region 3 draws region 2 in the first round of the state playoffs. Number 1 seed Metter hosts #4 seed Turner Co., #2 seed McIntosh Co. hosts Clinch Co., #3 seed Claxton travels to Quitman to face AA state runner up Brooks Co. and Jenkins Co. visits Ocilla to take on 2019 state champions Irwin Co.