When looking at the Emanuel County Institute season statistics, several numbers jump from the page.
Quarterback Rhett Gay has thrown 32 touchdown passes and only one interception, while the Bulldogs have three running backs — Rejar Rock, Bobby McNear and Jamoni Kelly — who all have run for more than 600 yards.
Meanwhile, wide receivers Dazhun Steele and David Durden have combined for 67 catches for more than 1,400 yards and 24 touchdowns.
But the numbers that are even more staggering are what the Bulldogs have been able to do to opponents in the first half of games: scoring 409 points and allowing 40. Their lowest first-half scoring total was 21 points against Montgomery County, and they ended up winning that game 42-7. The closest game ECI has had this year was a 38-21 win in its opener against Metter. ECI has scored more than 30 points in the first half eight times this year.
ECI is 11-0 and goes on the road against high-scoring Macon County in a GHSA Class 1A public school semifinal matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
“I think that we thought with the guys we had coming back that we could have a good football team, but there are always lots of variables heading into a season,” said ECI head coach Chris Kearson, whose team lost in the semifinals a year ago and last won the state title in 2012. “I think the season is a great testament to the hard work of not only the players but to all the assistant coaches, as well.
“We harped all summer long about making this a team that has a lot of depth, and we have a large group of quality players with great skill sets. We work all summer long to play games like we will be playing this Friday night.”
Kearson and ECI have the task of slowing down a Macon County team that is 10-2 and is averaging 46 points per game. Macon County beat Manchester 28-14 in the quarterfinals behind quarterback K’Hari Lane, who threw three touchdowns to run his total to 50 for the year.
“I have been at ECI for 15 years, and this is one of the two or three best teams I have ever seen,” said Kearson, who was an assistant coach at Peach County before heading to ECI. “I mean, they just scare you to death because they play so fast and are so good at what they do. I feel like we have a pretty good defense, but I honestly don’t know what the answer is to slow them down.
“The quarterback is an amazing football player, and I could not imagine a better matchup of two quarterbacks than this one. It should be a very entertaining football game.”