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Weekly Whatup 11-16-09
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What a long, winding road it has been for the area football teams this season.

Unfortunately for most of them, it hasn’t been nearly long enough.

                As we reach the second round of the GHSA state playoffs, Emanuel County Institute is the only team still in the hunt for a trip to the Dome and a shot at the state title.

                The Bulldogs have just one blemish on their record in 2009. A 34-0 Week 2 blowout at the hands of No. 2 Savannah Christian snapped a 33-game regular season winning streak and dissolved the aura of invincibility that has grown around ECI in the past few years.

                It also served as a wake-up call, and the Bulldogs have been on top of their game since their setback.

                Senior quarterback Michael Robertson – now 39-2 overall as the starter for ECI – has lead a potent offensive attack that seems to score at will. In their past nine games, the Bulldogs have averaged 34.9 points and have been held to less than 28 points on just one occasion.

                Just as impressive has been the effort on the other side of the ball.  During ECI’s nine-game winning streak, the Bulldog defense has notched two shutouts and has held their opponent under 10 points three more times.  Since the loss to Savannah Christian, just three games have ended within a touchdown margin.

                This week will provide a tough challenge for the Bulldogs. ECI must travel to Homerville to face the Region 1-A champions from Clinch County.

                The Panther offense has been just as prodigious as ECI, accumulating at least 26 points in every one of its eight wins this season.

                The toughest challenge for the Bulldogs may be adjusting to a playoff atmosphere as the road team.  Aside from games played at the Georgia Dome, this will be ECI’s first postseason game away from Twin City since 2005.

                Now that we’ve covered the team that’s still alive, let’s revisit the teams that have already called it a season.



                The Blue Devils knew that 2009 would be an uphill battle.

                Heading into the season, there were a ton of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. All told, 17 of the 22 starting positions were open and all were filled by players with limited experience – many of them still underclassmen.

                To make matters worse, the injury bug also paid a visit to the Devils’ sideline throughout much of the season. Starting running backs Lamar Stimage and Aaron Lester both got dinged up within the first two games of the season and a banged up offensive line had to piece together a new starting five on a seemingly weekly basis.

                Tough midseason losses to Effingham County and Glynn Academy dropped Statesboro to 1-2 in Region 2-AAAA play and put the Devils on the outside of the playoff race looking in. Statesboro was able to respond though. The Devils upset Ware County on the road and beat South Effingham on Senior Night to lock up a playoff spot.

                The season came to an end last week as a tenacious defense from Lakeside, Evans shutout the Devils, 16-0, but there is a silver lining to be taken out of 2009. Many players will be returning to key positions next season, and while quarterbacks DeAnthony Stevens and Todd Cone will graduate, sophomore Reid Pennington looks like he will be able to fill in as field general for the Devils in 2010.



                It was a year of “almost’s” and “not-quite’s” for the Portal Panthers.

                Each week, Portal was up for the challenge and put up a fight. Even against top-10 competition, the Panthers refused to go quietly.

                One or two big plays always seemed to go against them though, and Portal was left with just one win to show for its 11 games of solid effort. Five times, the Panthers were within a score in the final quarter, only to see victory slip away in the final minutes.

                Perhaps the most impressive showing came against No. 2 Savannah Christian. Despite having already been eliminated from playoff contention, Portal stood toe-to-toe with the class of Region 3-A. The Panthers lacked the size, speed and numbers of their opponent, but showed that they will always be up for a fight, no matter the circumstances.

                Next season, the offense hopes to come along to compliment the always stingy defense. Sophomores Corey Walker and Hunter Oglesby split time at quarterback throughout the season and should provide a dangerous 1-2 punch as they continue to grow.


Southeast Bulloch

                If there was an award for things just not going your way, SEB would have been at the top of the list of contenders.

                Already saddled with a young team and sparse numbers, the Yellow Jackets found themselves in the middle of Region 3-AA – one of the toughest and deepest in the entire state.

                For a team that needed some time to gel and find its identity, a merry-go-round of brutal opponents offered a rough method of on-the-job training for SEB. All told, the Jackets had to face three different teams who made an appearance in the AA top-10 at some point in the season.

                Despite the winless season, you have got to give the Yellow Jackets some credit. This was a team that showed up to each practice ready to improve and played its heart out in games, even when the mercy-clock had long been set in motion.

                The good news is that almost everyone will return with one more year of growth and experience in 2010. Senior-to-be Dee Odum figures to lead the way, as the quarterback/running back was the one consistent threat for the Jackets all year.



                Once again, Claxton put together a solid season, only to fall a game short of that elusive playoff berth.

                For the second consecutive season, the Tigers compiled a 6-3 regular season and clinched the No. 2 seed in their division.  Just as in 2008 though, Claxton could not get past the play-in round, falling to Treutlen this season.

                For a senior-laden team, this had to be a huge disappointment. On the bright side, putting together two successful seasons as they did has helped to light a fire under the football program and encourage bigger turnouts for next year’s team.

                The biggest step for Claxton will be replacing running back Jamalcolm Morgan. The departing senior amassed over 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons and was the heart and soul of the Tiger offense.

                Rising junior quarterback Michael Peel figures to take the reins. Peel has started every game of his career and has developed his passing skills enough to make the Tigers a well-balanced threat next season.


                Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.