Originally created 11/28/98

ECI knocked out of playoffs



TWIN CITY, Ga. -- Emanuel County Institute finally ran into an opponent with more offense than itself.

The Dooly County Bobcats, led by strong-armed quarterback Cecil Lester, overwhelmed the second-ranked Bulldogs with a shotgun and spread formation that ECI's smaller defense never could match up with in a 35-26 second-round playoff victory at Rountree Stadium.

Lester, sitting comfortably in a very secure pocket, administered a Tee Martin-style dissection, completing the first 14 of his 15 passes as the Bobcats' offensive juggernaut never could be slowed.

And when Lester wasn't rifling passes to his bigger, open receivers, running back Camaron Daniels provided the tough-to-tackle running, breaking a myriad of tackles in gaining more than 130 yards and two touchdowns.

For the Bulldogs, it was the first loss of their dream season, while the ninth-ranked Bobcats advanced to the Class 1-A third round for a matchup with Lincoln County next week.

"They had too much offense for us," ECI coach Isiah Andrews said. "We really couldn't handle them. They've got big receivers, a big offensive line, and I think their quarterback is one of the best we've faced around here in a long time."

Lester, being recruited heavily by Tennessee-Chattanooga, ran an airtight offense that moved at will against the Bulldogs' defense. The Bobcats, now 11-1, showed their explosiveness from the first drive when Lester capped a slow march with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Joe Young.

This season, Dooly's averaged 25 points and more than 300 yards of offense.

"He can really throw the ball," said Bruce Steele, ECI's quarterback and defensive back. "He could throw the short routes, the long routes, and then he could ball-fake and bootleg."

ECI had its moments of offensive glory as well, but it couldn't keep up with the fast-breaking Bobcats. Running back Timothy Williams found success running off-tackle, and Steele countered Dooly's opening score with a 10-yard run of his own.

But any momentum the Bulldogs possessed was lost early in the second quarter when Dooly's Jablenski Fields recovered a Williams' fumble and returned it 17 yards for touchdown and a 14-6 lead.

On ECI's ensuing possession, Fields stripped Gary Handsom at the 50 and returned it 15 yards. From there, Dooly needed two Lester passes and a Daniels' 7-yard run to make the lead 21-6.

"The two mistakes we made really cost us," Andrews said. "And when you get to this level of the playoffs, it's not about who makes the big plays, it's who makes the most mistakes."

ECI had life when Williams returned the second-half's kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, and a 21-20 Dooly lead. But that would be ECI's final shot, as Lester orchestrated another masterful drive, this one 68 yards on 12 plays, that he capped with a quarterback sneak.