Elation or deflation.
Dooly County High was destined to experience one of those feelings at the conclusion of its GHSA Class A public school state title game Saturday in the Georgia Dome against Emanuel County Institute.
No Bobcat player, coach or fan, though, ever thought the contest would end as one-sided as it did — 47-7 in favor of the Region 3-A crowns Bulldogs who have now won two state titles in the last six years. The other came in 2007 over the Wilcox High team that fell victim to ECI by a 38-27 count in last week’s semifinals.
En route to their latest championship, the Bulldogs virtually ran the Bobcats into the ground by churning out 335 yards and six touchdowns on 54 carries. Their ultimate margin of victory was the most decisive in a state title game since Buford defeated Lovett 50-0 for the Class AA title in 2007.
“I was really surprised they were able to run the ball on us as well they did,” Dooly coach Jimmy Hughes said in reflecting upon ECI’s infantry-minded approach keyed by running backs Greg Percell (26 carries, 150 yards and two TDs) and James Brown (14 totes for 132 yards and a touchdown).
“They were better running the ball than advertised, and they were already advertised in advance to run it really well. We were going to try to make them to go the whole length of the field and not give up the big plays in the running game which we unfortunately did.
“There were several times when we didn’t adjust, didn’t make the automatic checks we did during the regular season and didn’t do some things we knew to do from having worked on them in practice.”
What made the loss even more painful for Dooly to have to swallow was that its star defensive tackle, Montravius Adams, missed over half the game due to a leg injury suffered when he was the victim of a second period chop block. He saw very limited, ineffective action after that.
“Our kids have leaned on him all year long,” a glum Hughes acknowledged. “With him not being out there, it probably hurt us mentally just as much as it did physically. Without him, I think our confidence dropped down which is understandable.”
It didn’t help matters either that after getting one of its few defensive stops against the Bulldogs to open the game, disaster struck on Dooly’s first offensive snap that led to a 46-yard interception return by ECI’s Brown.
That play put the ball at the Dooly 23 from where the Bulldogs needed eight snaps to make their first visit into the Bobcats’ end zone. The payoff came on Percell’s plunge from inside the 1-yard line. Caleb Pressey’s PAT made it 14-0 with 5:09 left in the initial period.
It didn’t take long for the Twin City-based gridders to double their advantage as after forcing Dooly to punt they showed their quick-strike capability on a 53-yard, two-play drive capped by 50-yard burst off right tackle.
As the initial quarter wound down, Dooly, which was gunning for its first win in three title game appearances, launched its lone scoring thrust of the contest.
Starting from mid-field after a squib kick by ECI, the Bobcats got runs of 16, 17 and 19 yards from Chanin Hamilton with the longest of them producing the points to make it 14-7 10:26 before intermission.
The Bulldogs, who finish the year with a 13-1 record, wasted no time in getting that score back as starting from their own 20 they went 80 yards in eight snaps the last of which saw Brown break three tackles on his way to paydirt.
Punts ended the next two possessions for Dooly and one for ECI which during its drive was hit by the penalty that pretty much sent Adams to the sideline for the rest of the day.
Still, the Bobcats looked like they might cut their deficit to a touchdown when they drove from their own 44 to the ECI 12 in the waning seconds of the half.
First facing fourth-and-2 on a play they were called for illegal procedure and then with a fourth-and-7, they chose to forego a field goal try both times.
“Had we scored (a touchdown) at that point, it would have been a one-score game and you never know,” Hughes said in defending the decision to try and close to within 20-14 rather than 20-10. “We just didn’t come up with the plays to make that happen, though.”
It was practically all Bulldogs in the second half as they put three touchdowns on the scoreboard in the third period alone and then tacked on their final score in a fourth stanza during which the clock ran non-stop.
The winners first went 85 yards in 11 hikes the biggest gain of which came on a 31-yard scamper by Brown who also had tackle-breaking 13-yard pickup in the drive. Touchdown honors went to Pressey, who’s bound for Georgia Southern to play baseball where he excels as a pitcher. On his TD tote, he faked Percell into the line before rolling left on a 3-yard keeper.
“When they scored there, I think that was the beginning of the end for us as things just kind of snowballed after that,” said Hughes.
The next time Pressey got his hands on the football, he recorded his first pass completion hooking up with Brown on a 53-yard play during which the receiver made a sensational one-handed grab at the Dooly 46 and raced down the right sideline for the score.
ECI immediately got the ball back when the Bobcats fumbled their ensuing kickoff that Kenny Butler recovered at the Dooly 32. It took six plays for the ’Dogs to punch it in from there with Percell covering the last six yards.
Another fumble by Dooly set up the Bulldogs’ final score that came three plays after the Bobcats coughed up the football at the end of a 4-yard pass completion to their own 20.
From there, Michael Sutton powered for 15 and 3 yards before Renaldo Williams drove the final nail in Dooly’s grid coffin when he stepped off the final two yards to paydirt with 6:40 remaining.
“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes both mental and physical,” Hughes said after seeing his 11-3 team’s impressive six-game winning streak snapped by an opponent that closed out its season with 11 straight triumphs.
“You can’t do that and be successful when playing a team like ECI which really wasn’t challenged all year long by a Class A opponent (their lone loss was to AAA Washington County). They just outmanned us numbers wise and today it finally caught up with us.
“While we didn’t play our best and do the things we needed to do to win, I just hope that people realize we got beat by a real good team.
“I’m so proud of our kids for giving it their all and our coaches for all the hard work they put in while helping us get this far. I don’t want this one game to take away from our accomplishments as the season overall was a great one.
“Some of our seniors have started for us three years and they’re really going to be missed not only as players but also for just being who they are. They’ve helped us build something during their time here that will help lead our program into the future.
“We also had a very supportive crowd these last few weeks and I was want to thank the community and the administration for helping make all this possible.”
Elation or deflation.
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