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ECI goes for state football title tonight
Bulldogs, Wilcox could be in for a shootout
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    Emanuel County Institute has, so far, proven all the naysayers wrong.
    Sure, the football team from Twin City finished 10-0 in the regular season this year. But that’s what happened in 2006, and ECI was one-and-done in the first round of the playoffs.
    They quieted doubters this time with a 49-23 win in the first round over a Seminole County team with one of the state’s top quarterback’s. Mission One accomplished.
    Mission Two was to reach the Georgia Dome, a check point for powerful programs since the semifinal round was moved there in 1996.
    The Dogs advanced with wins over the high-powered squads of Dooly County and Warren County. Check.
    The third step, knocking off Clinch County, a program which might as well call the Georgia Dome “Donald Tison Stadium North”. Four Washaun Ealey touchdowns later and ECI crossed another task off its list.
    Now, once again, Emanuel is up against the odds.
    The Bulldogs (14-0) must travel 21⁄2 hours southwest to play Wilcox County for the GHSA Class A state title game. Although the game has been moved to nearby Cordele and will be played at Crisp County High School, the Patriots (13-1) will most likely have a home-field advantage. And oh yeah, the Pats are pretty good.
    “I believe (Wilcox) is the most talented team in Single A,” said ECI coach Milan Turner. “The four teams we’ve played so far in the playoffs at some point in the season have all been ranked in the Top 5. I think Wilcox is the best talented team we’ll have played so far.”
    Wilcox’s only loss was a 13-6 defeat at the hand’s of Turner County (5-5) in October. The Patriots have won seven in a row since then, outscoring its opponents 240-79.
    “We’re going to have to do a very good job of trying not to give up the big play,” Turner said. “They’re an explosive dangerous offense. They can score a lot of points in a hurry. Offensively we’ll have to move the chains and try to play a little keep away to be competitive.”
    Wilcox may be thinking the exact same thing when looking at tape of the Bulldogs.
    With Ealey, quarterback Michael Robertson, Nick Cross and Sanquez Lee, ECI can light up the scoreboard just as quick as their counterparts. The Dogs are flashing 41 points per game.
    “Yeah, we’re excited, but we still gotta be focused,” said lineman J.C. Lanier.
    On Monday, both schools sold 2,000 tickets for the game, forcing WCHS officials to meet and decide on a change of venue for the contest. Rochelle is a short 30-minute drive from Cordele, where the teams will meet at the Cougar Den, officially a neutral site.

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