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Dome bound
ECI faces Clinch in semis
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    TWIN CITY — Emanuel County Institute was hard at work Wednesday late into the long shadows of a cool December day at Rountree Stadium.
    In preparation for their first ever trip to the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs (13-0) were focused hard on stopping a Clinch County squad that — as seems to be the case with every other team nowadays — likes to spread the ball all over the field offensively. The two squads meet today at Noon, live on GPTV.
    “Athletes,” said head coach Milan Turner, simply. “They present a lot of problems. They have a really good quarterback. Great speed out there at wideout. They’re quick and athletic on defense, (too). It’s going to make it tough on us.”
    The Bulldogs left at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday and had a walk through at Lakewood Stadium planned just north of Atlanta on Thursday evening.
    Meanwhile, the Panthers (11-2) will be making their sixth trip to the Dome in the last seven years. Turner, now in his third year with ECI, joked that the Dome has two locker rooms, one for the Atlanta Falcons and one for the football team from Homerville, Ga. Clinch has won four state titles in the last 20 years
    Being the new kids on the block is something ECI has had to deal with this week during practice.
    “That’s why we’ve been struggling a little bit at practice — with all the excitement,” said junior lineman J.C. Lanier. “But we picked it up at the end. We’re just trying to go in like it’s a regular game. It’s going to be a little bit tough because it’s in the Dome, and they’ll be all the excitement.”
    Much like the famous scene from the movie “Hoosiers”, Turner has told his team this week that everything at the Georgia Dome will be the same as it is at Rountree Stadium.
    “I told them to expect a field that’s 100 yards long and 50 yards wide,” he said. “We’re going to dress the same. We’re going to prepare the same. It’s going to be the same fans on the home side behind us. Same coaches on the sideline. Same gear, same uniforms, same offense, same defense.”
    Same Washaun Ealey, too.
    The record-setting back has 52 total touchdowns on the season, 50 coming on the ground. He’s excited about getting to showcase his talents in front of a statewide audience.
    “It’s a great opportunity,” said the junior. “We’re just going to go in there and try to win to get to the state championship. We just have to block hard and protect the ball. They pride themselves on their defense, so we’re just going to get after them.”
    Turner, Lanier and Ealey all felt keeping the Panther offense off the field will be key in today’s game. The Panthers score 29 points a game while holding their opponents to just under 14. CCHS has won 11 straight while the Bulldogs will go for their 14th win in a row.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.