December 19, 2002
When the high school footballseason started under a hot south Georgia sun in August, the Clinch County Panthers were suprised to find themselves ranked number one in the preseason class-A poll.
The Panthers say that preseason poll is one of the reasons they are playing for their first state football title in 11 years.
Clinch County linebacker Paul Tolbert said "That ranking helped us. It gave us confidence that we were going to come out had live up to that number one ranking and stick to it as we have done all season. We have to finsh the season at number one.
The class-A championship game seemed to be a pipe dream for the Dooly County Bobcats after an 0-5 start.
The Bobcats turned their season around 180 degrees. Dooly County has reeled off eight wins in their last night games and will play for their first state championship in school history.
Dooly County head coach Bill Clark said "We were not so worried about our early schedule as we were about our region schedule. That is what the kids really concentrated on and got us to where we are now."
Clinch County head coach Cecil Barber knows all about the character of the Dooly County program. This is the fifth straight year these two schools have played each other.
Coach Barber said " We have played them before and we have been up 23-0 in a plyaoff game and wound up losing 31-30. They are a never say die team and you cannot count them out until that last second is over."
Clinch County has played in three state finals, winning two state titles. Friday night is the first time the Panthers will play for a state championship at home and Clinch County would love to end the 50th season of football at the school with their third state championship.
The class-A state title game will kick off at eight o'clock Friday night in Homerville.