Several new faces on the field and sidelines for the Bulldogs this season


(This article was omitted in the Fall Sports Special Section We apologize for this mistake). The ECI Bulldog football team will have the same schedule in 2023 as the 2022 season. The Bulldogs will start the 2023 campaign with the youngest team they have fielded in several years, made up mostly of underclassmen with only four seniors. These freshmen and sophomores are no stranger to being thrown into the mix or having success, having won back-to-back middle school championships the last two years.

“The 2023 ECI Bulldogs will need to gain experience in a hurry,” commented head football coach Chris Kearson when asked about his young Bulldogs. “The majority is made up of freshmen and sophomores. This group likes to compete and likes the taste of success, so that is one thing working in their favor. Look for a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball. I look for 15-16 sophomores and freshmen to play significant minutes every Friday night. What is not working in their favor is the early season schedule and the grid of a long hot summer and an early season grind with our non-region schedule.”

The Bulldogs will start with two scrimmage games followed by six non-region games. They will end the regular season playing their region opponents the last four games on the schedule. Including the scrimmage game with Fitzgerald, the Bulldogs will face six teams that ended the 2022 season ranked seventh or better in the state polls.

ECI started the pre-season playing Vidalia. The Bulldogs and Indians varsity teams played for three quarters and ended up tied 14-14. The two JV teams closed the game in the fourth quarter. Both JV offenses moved the ball but neither found the end zone. Next, they traveled to Fitzgerald to take on the AA state runner-up Hurricanes. The Hurricanes begin the season as the top ranked team in class AA.

The Bulldogs begin the regular season in Metter in their annual rivalry game. The Tigers ended last season ranked sixth in class A division one. They are under a new coach this season. Lee Shaw, who coached at Rabun Co. and Flowery Branch, takes over the helm from Rodney Garvin who is now the head coach at Vidalia.

The Bulldogs traveled to Lincoln County’s Buddy Buford Field last season and surprised the seventh ranked Red Devils 41-27. Lincoln will be looking for pay back when they visit Rountree Stadium on September 1.

On September 9, the Dublin Irish will come calling. The Bulldogs went toe to toe with the Irish, tied at half. The green men easily pulled away in the second half and the Bulldogs are looking for a complete game against the Irish in front of the home crowd.

The Bulldogs will take the short trip to Tiger Field on September 15, to take on Swainsboro. The Tigers were state runner-up in 2022. The Bulldogs will have their hands full trying to contain one of the more dynamic players in the state in Demello Jones and find some holes in the stingy Tiger Defense.

The Bulldogs will host Johnson Co. on September 22. The Trojans ended the season ranked at number three last season. The Bulldogs and JOCO were tied in regulation in 2022 with the Trojans winning in overtime 27-21.

ECI ended their non-region schedule hosting Jefferson Co. The Bulldogs and Warriors had a high scoring back and forth game last season with ECI coming out on top. The Warriors’ long time coach JB Arnold retired last season after 22 years. Marlo East, who was defensive coordinator at WACO and Jefferson Co., takes over this season.

The Bulldogs open up region play on October 13, when they visit Portal. The Bulldogs easily defeated the Panthers 42-14 last season. Word on the street has the Panthers fielding a more competitive team in 2023. One player to watch on the Panther team is Florida commit Amir Jackson, who is rated as the number six tight end in the nation.

ECI will host McIntosh Co. the next Friday evening. The Buccaneers ended last season with a 10-2 record, a region championship and ranked seventh in class A.

On October 27, the Bulldogs will cross the river for their annual neighborhood bash with Jenkins Co. It was a tale of two halves against the Eagles last season. After rushing for 240 yards and leading 21-14 at the half, the Bulldogs failed to find the endzone the rest of the game, losing to their rivals 31-24.

The Bulldogs will end the regular season at Rountree hosting Montgomery Co. The Bulldogs led the Eagles 28-0 at half-time in Mt. Vernon last season and defeated the Eagles 34-14. Montgomery always seems to feature speed at the skill positions and this season will be no different for the Eagles.