TWIN CITY, GA. -- Isiah Andrews has a keen eye for talent.
The Emanuel County Institute coach has been part of the Georgia-Florida All-Star game for the past six seasons, either as an administrative assistant or an assistant coach.
This season, Andrews feels he has two of the best players in Georgia in quarterbackdefensive back Bruce Steele and running back Gary Handson. The Class A No. 2 Bulldogs (3-0, 3-0 in Region 4-A) play host to Telfair County tonight.
"They are good, experienced players who have been starting for four years," Andrews said of his dynamic duo. "They have great desire and the will to be the very best they can be. They are two of the best football players in the United States. In the last six years, I've worked in the Georgia-Florida football game and they rank with the very best of them. I'm pushing them for the Georgia-Florida game."
Handson, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back, has rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his illustrious career, including consecutive seasons of more than 1,300 yards rushing. As a junior, Steele accounted for more than 1,400 yards of total offense and had eight interceptions from his defensive back position.
Steele is a football fanatic. If he's not playing football, he's watching it on television during the weekend. If there's no game on, it's a good bet that Steele is playing Madden '99, the Play Station football game.
Handson is the exact opposite. He watched his first football game from start to finish on television this season.
"I don't watch any football unless I go over to Bruce's house," Handson said. "He's always watching it."
Ironically, the first time they played Madden '99, Handson won. Steele has since avenged that defeat.
But it's on the football field where the duo has been defeating opponents and making the most noise. The Bulldogs are 28-9 during the Steele-Handson era at the school.
Steele is one of only two two-way players for the Bulldogs. Andrews' strategy is to give opponents a full dose of Handson in the second half of games.
"He's a power runner with the football," Steele said of Handson. "I know his skills as a runner. A lot of guys try to hit him high, but he runs over them. You can't do that; he makes them look like pancakes when they do that."
Both are being recruited by many of the same schools, including Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, North Carolina State and Central Florida. Handson is being recruited as a running back, while Steele is being looked at as a free safety. Some schools are even expressing interest in Steele as a wide receiver.
"Bruce Steele is the top defensive back in the state of Georgia," Andrews said. "He's like Champ Bailey or Hines Ward; he's multi-talented. Gary (Handson) is a combination of Garrison Hearst -- quick feet and a good slasher -- and Herschel Walker with his power. He would be good in an one-back, split back, or two-back offense."
Added Handson: "I think Bruce (Steele) could play any position on the field. He can run, jump, pass, tackle -- he can do it all."
The players and coach Andrews are trying to enjoy the recruiting process. They said it has not hindered preparation from week to week. They find humor in the fact that recruiting calls come repeatedly back-to-back at night.
Andrews has been at Emanuel County Institute for 20 years, including his 13th season as head coach. He ranks Handson and Steele among the top six players he has ever had at the school. Also, included in that list is former Texas El-Paso running back Eddie Dixon, current Georgia Tech wide receiver Titus Nelson and running back Eddie Badie, the older brother of Handson.
Badie died in 1994 of cancer when Handson was in the eighth grade.
"If we are fortunate enough to win it (the Class A state championship), he would be the first person I would think about," Handson said. "He always wanted me to pick up where he left off."
While teams will be keying on Steele and Handson, the Bulldogs feel they are still diversified enough to hurt teams and win games. Emanuel County Institute went 9-2 last season, but is looking for the bigger prize in 1998.
"Most people don't know about the other people we have until they play us," Steele said. "We have some other players who can step it up, too. We have to do it as a team. If we were to win a state championship, that would be something."
1) QBDB Marcus Robinson/TB Andre Smith, Barnwell -- Duo combined for more than 3,300 yards of total offense and 49 touchdowns in leading Barnwell to 14-1 record and Class AA state championship game as juniors.
2) QB/DB Bruce Steele/TB Gary Handson, ECI -- Both players are four-year starters. Steele accounted for more than 1,400 yards and had eight interceptions as junior, while Handson rushed for 1,450 yards as junior.
3) QB/DB Charles Jones/TB Jimmy Kelly, Burke Co. -- Jones amassed more than 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns in leading Bears to 13-2 record and berth in Class AAA state championship game. Kelly rushed for nearly 500 yards as a junior and is the area's fastest player. He is the reigning Class AAA 200-meter champion.
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