CLAXTON – As the #1 ranked Bulldogs of Emanuel County Institute came to town, the Claxton Tigers were confident that anything could happen.
And when Tigers drew first blood, the crowd could sense it, too. After all, this was Friday the 13th and stranger things have happened. Unfortunately for Claxton, ECI was not in a superstitious mood Friday night, regrouping quickly and crashing Claxton's homecomming party with a 48-14 drubbing.
The visiting Bulldogs, whose potent offensive attack has vaulted them to the top of the state Class A polls, looked to do damage right out of the gate, driving deep inside of Claxton's territory. The Tigers were not about to be intimidated though, as they dug in and held their ground, stopping ECI on fourth and goal from the 1 yard line.
A 50-yard romp from the shadow of his own end zone by Claxton running back, Delvin Diggs, swung the momentum in the Tigers' favor and three plays later, they were able to punch it in for an early 6-0 lead.
Two touchdowns by the Bulldogs in the second quarter built a 14-6 lead in ECI's favor. A late drive by the Tigers threatened to tie the game going into the half, but a fumble inside the Bulldog 15 kept the scoreboard frozen at the break.
Claxton head coach, Allen Cartwright was very pleased with his team's effort in the first half. "I looked out there in that first half, and I saw a team that could hang in there against any team around. They were out there fighting tooth and nail against the top ranked team in the state. We knew that we had stung them and that they were going to come out fired up, but we had every reason to believe that we could be there at the end."
Cartwright was certainly on the money about ECI being fired up for the second half of play. The Bulldogs got back on track from the half's opening kickoff. The ECI defense forced two turnovers and a punt on Claxton's first three drives. All three changes of possession were quickly turned into touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Before the homecomming queen had been fitted for her crown, the once back-and-forth game was a 34-6 rout of the home team.
Two more touchdowns drove the lead up to 48-6 and set the mercy clock into motion for the majority of the fourth quarter. Late in the game, the Tiger offense was finally able to regroup, driving for a score in the final minutes to bring the score to 48-14.
"We're disappointed that we couldn't have done better in the second half," said Cartwright, "but the important thing is to put this behind us. We don't want to lose track of next week because we're still hung up on tonight. I think some of our youth showed tonight, but it's definitely somthing that we can improve on in the coming weeks. We still have a bunch of important games left on the schedule."
The lone bright spot for the Tigers in the second half was the continued dominance of Diggs. The senior running back, who has yet to meet a defense that can contain him, chalked up another 134 yards on the ground Friday night.
"There's not much to say that I haven't already said about him" remarked Cartwright of his star running back. "He's one of the best backs around, without a doubt. He's just a warrior and everything that you could want in a leader for your team."
The Tigers look to get back on the winning path next Friday night as they hit the road to take on the Portal Panthers in another region matchup.
First Downs 10 8
Rushing Yards 241 191
Passing Yards 134 39
Total Yards 375 230
Passing 5-10-0 1-3-1
Turnovers 0 3
Penalties 3-35 6-55
Rushing: ECI: M. Hughes. 15 carries, 127 yards, 3 TD. CHS: D. Diggs. 26 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD
Passing: ECI: C. Chester. 5/10, 134 yards, 2 TD. CHS: T. McCoy. 1/3, 39 yards.
Receiving: ECI: P. Tarver. 2 rec., 90 yards, 2 TD. CHS: C. Bellamy. 1 rec., 39 yards.
ECI 0 14 27 7 48
Claxton 6 0 0 8 14
CHS: D. Diggs 4 yard run. PAT failed - 2:01
ECI: W. Ealey 11 yard run. PAT good - 10:08
ECI: M. Hughes 24 yard run. PAT good - 8:03
ECI: P. Tarver 35 yard pass from C. Chester. PAT good - 9:41
ECI: P. Tarver 55 yard pass from C. Chester. PAT good - 7:14
ECI: M. Hughes 7 yard run. PAT no good - 4:52
ECI: M. Hughes 46 yard run. PAT good - 1:37
ECI: W. Ealey 5 yard run. PAT good - 11:51
CHS: D Diggs 5 yard run. Conversion good - 3:45