Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local Sports

December 12, 2012

Bobcats head to Dome in quest of school's first ever grid state championship

Vienna — If Dooly County High’s Bobcats just had to face Emanuel County Institute in the GHSA Class A state championship game, they at least get a shot at the Bulldogs where they want them — on the road.

That sentiment is understandable in that Dooly has won all seven games it’s played this season outside the confines of its own stadium. At home, the Bobcats are 4-2. They’re thus 11-2 overall heading into their Georgia Dome showdown vs. the 12-1 Emanuel County Institute (ECI) Bulldogs.

“All season long, our kids have played their best football away from home and hopefully they’ll do so again this week in what will be the biggest high school game of their lives,” Bobcats head coach Jimmy Hughes said.

“It’s certainly going to take that type effort in order for us to have a chance at posting a win we know most observers would consider another upset (on the heels of last week’s 10-7 victory over Lincoln County).”

In ECI, Dooly will be facing a squad that is coming off a 38-27 semifinals win over a Wilcox High team that in the third week of the regular season handed the Bobcats a 28-14 loss. The title tilt foes have faced no other common opponents.

The Region 3-A champion Bulldogs have also beaten Metter (42-7), Jenkins Co. (42-15), Claxton (14-6), Portal (48-0), Wheeler (68-7), Treutlen (50-6), Johnson Co. (40-0), Montgomery (56-7), Savannah Christian (48-14), Gordon Lee (46-12) and Trion (27-10). Their lone loss was to Class AAA Washington Co. (48-22).

“There’s a lot to talk about,” Hughes said when asked to relate his thoughts on the Bulldogs who’ll be seeking at the expense of the Bobcats their second state crown in the last six years.

“Having seen video of most of the games they’ve played thus far, it didn’t take long to figure out they have an excellent team that at this point you have to say is one of the top two in the state.

“Their ground game is the first thing that jumps out at you. The run is definitely their go-to thing. It’s what they hang their hats on and they obviously do it well.”

While ECI’s wing-T attack will be something Dooly hasn’t gone up against this season, it won’t be completely foreign to the Bobcats as it’s an offense they have faced within the past couple of years.

“Most wing-T teams have their own little nuances they do and so does ECI which does an extremely good job with that formation,” said Hughes.

“The nature of the beast with that type offense is that it forces opposing defenses to commit so many people to stopping the run that guys lose their concentration and forget about pass responsibilities.

“When that happens, it lets their receivers get behind defensive backs and come up with big pass plays as we’ve seen ECI do several times.”

Speedy Bulldog running backs Greg Percell and James Brown have rushed for a combined 2,001 yards and 24 touchdowns. They’re also the team’s leading receivers with 32 receptions for 654 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Equally dangerous to that pair if not more so overall is quarterback Caleb Pressey who for the season has thrown for 881 yards and 15 touchdowns and last week against Wilcox ran for a pair of scores.

“He’s surprisingly fast,” Hughes said of Pressey whom he characterized as “the leader of an offense that seldom makes mistakes” and averages putting up 41.6 points per contest.

Asked if the Bulldogs’ go team is faster than the Lincoln squad that Dooly’s defense pretty much held in check last week, Hughes’ response was, “It’s kind of hard to tell.

“Defensively (where ECI has limited foes to an average of just 12.4 points per game), with their guys who can run they are probably a little better than Lincoln.

“Overall, they’re very efficient and very good on both sides of the football as they don’t commit a lot of penalties or have a lot of turnovers. As a result, a lot of their games have been over before they reach the fourth quarter. You can just tell they’re well coached and play extremely hard.”

The topic of conversation shifting to his own team, Hughes said it’s imperative before each snap that the Bobcats get lined up correctly against the multiple sets the Bulldogs use in an effort to outnumber opponents in the area they wish to attack.

Toward that end, the Dooly coach said the best thing that has happened to his team coming down the stretch is that “guys have concentrated better than they did during the regular season.

“I don’t know if it’s the finality of what a loss would do, but it just seems that our practices and preparations during the week have stepped up to the point that we’ve able to play without thinking so much.

“While I know we’ll have our hands full with ECI which has lost only to a Class AAA team, I like where we are at this time especially on defense where we’re playing extremely hard and well (allowing an average of an even 13 points).

“Offensively (where Dooly has scored at a 25.1 clip), we’re hoping (quarterback) A.J. (Smith) will be ready to go (after suffering a knee strain in the win over Lincoln) so that we can pick things up and be more productive on that side of the football.”

Hughes does admits to having some concern over the fact most of his players will be getting their first-ever in-person look at the cavernous Georgia Dome.

“I’d like to think there won’t be any awe on our part, but there probably will be at least in the early going. That’s why we’re spending Friday night in Atlanta so that we can get a good night’s rest and arrive at the Dome by 9 a.m. to give kids time to go out and throw the ball around before dressing.

“In hopes that kind of newness will go away before long so that we can just play our style of football, we’re reminding the guys, too, that the field dimensions there — 120 yards long, 160 feet wide — are the same we’ve been playing on all season.”

Touching one final time on the Bobcats’ semifinal triumph over then top-seeded Lincoln County, Hughes said his players are to be commended for posting “a very big win in a very tough place to win.

“We’ve enjoyed last week long enough, though, and realize now that there’s something else to do. There’s unfinished business ahead and we’re really looking forward to it.”

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