ECI took a short trip up to Millen for a key match-up with the Jenkins County Eagles Friday night. The Bulldogs would have their ups and downs on the night but played with physicality, which is essential to win, especially in a rival backyard. The Jenkins County team was big, physical, and definitely tested the Bulldogs.
It was a hard-hitting defensive struggle between the teams for the entire first half. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Eagles’ offense didn’t get much going before the Bulldog defense forced a fumble deep in Jenkins territory. Like they would for most of the night, the Bulldogs faced a stiff defensive front with their first series. The Eagles played with seven or sometimes eight players in the box, which made running the ball tough all night. After a turnover on downs, senior Kris Jackson came up with a huge stop to force the Eagles to punt. Again, ECI found it ought sledding the ground. However, Bryce Kearson boomed an enormous punt that flipped the field position for ECI in a major way. The ECI defense continued to stand tall as they have all season by forcing another Eagle punt.
To begin the second quarter, Kearson got off another amazing punt. Then, the Eagles began to click offensively. They picked up several first downs, including a 34-yard pass that spotted the ball deep into ECI territory. With 5:05 left in the half, Jenkins County scored on a 3-yard run. However, Hudson Henry came up huge for the Bulldogs on a failed 2-point conversion with a big hit, keeping the score 6-0.
ECI immediately responded following the kickoff. A five-play touchdown drive for ECI saw Kearson have passes of 11 and 35 yards and with 1:05 left in the first half, and DJ “the Big Deisel” Jones scored from 4 yards out. Following a successful PAT by Samuel McBride, the Bulldogs took a 7-6 lead.
Using their two-minute offense, Hudson Henry ran down the Eagle quarterback for a sack that was so big the outcome of the game could have been decided then and there, and the Dawgs jogged into the locker room up 7-6.
Receiving the ball to start the second half, ECI had an efficient 3-minute, 48-second drive that saw Jones, PJ Farnum, and Kearson make huge plays to set up a 4-yard run by Jones. McBride’s PAT was however blocked, giving the Bulldogs a 13-6 lead with 8:18 left in the third.
Jenkins County put together another fine drive before a huge pass breakup by Farnum. With a sense of renewed energy, the Bulldog offense picked up most of the next yardage through the air after stretching the Eagle defense with Kearson’s arm.
After picking up 44 yards through the air, Jones and Farnum shared the load on the ground before Farnum hit pay dirt on a 3-yard touchdown run with 9:46 left in the fourth. McBride’s PAT was good, and the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 20-6.
After kicking off to the Eagles, the home offense began to get a few breaks due to yellow handkerchiefs flying. A huge hit by Joseph Conner forced a third-and-16 for Jenkins. The aforementioned penalties kept the drive going and after some tough yardage, the Eagles score on a 4-yard run. The PAT was no good, however, and ECI still held an an 8-point lead 20-12. The Bulldogs fell on the ensuing onside kick, but the offense couldn’t manage to pick up the first downs needed to drain the remaining clock and had to punt.
Again Kearson’s leg pinned the Eagles back on their own 21 with 1:21 left in the game. On second-and-15, Carlton Gamble came up with a crucial sack. With 19 seconds to go, the Eagles tested ECI on a deep ball, and Farnum sealed the win for the Dawgs after a huge interception.
This was a good, physical football team that ECI beat on the road. The win makes ECI 7-1 on the year with the playoffs looming. They play host to Bryan County this week. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.