Usually, when a football team drops a 34-18 decision, that team’s coach has a hard time finding the positives that were buried in the final score. That’s not the case with Escambia County High’s mentor Rico Jackson.
Jackson, who will make his regular season ECHS debut on Friday, said he and his staff saw lots of positive things on which to build.
“I feel good about what we’re doing, where we’re at,” Jackson said about the Blue Devils’ August 25 preseason jamboree setback to B.C. Rain High Raiders. “I feel like we left a lot of points on the field. I think the kids see a lot that we could have taken advantage of, but didn’t.”
Another factor that lessened the sting of the loss was the fact that the Blue Devils pretty much held their own against a Class 6A team that is expected to challenge for a postseason spot this year.
“I thought they were pretty good,” Jackson said of the Raiders. “They’ve got some good players, some Division I prospects, and our kids competed well against them. When I play a jamboree, I like to schedule ‘up,’ so we’ll be prepared when we get into region play. I’m not worried; I actually feel good at this point.”
He pointed out that the jamboree contest was only the second chance he and his coaches have had to observe their troops under game conditions.
“We had the spring game to evaluate our players, then the jamboree,” he said. “That’s just two games to evaluate where we are. We feel like we’ve come a long way, a long way, from spring to now.”
Jackson did not yet have official statistics from the contest, but said one of the brightest spots was the play of junior quarterback Jordaun Patterson.
“The coaches chose Jordaun as the player of the game,” the Blue Devils coach said. “He threw for around 110 yards, with one touchdown pass, and he controlled the offense. He did a good job of managing the game, and we were really pleased with his play.”
Jackson pointed out that ECHS showed its mettle when it got to within a touchdown and 2-point conversion of the lead.
“We got down, but we came back and made it a game,” he said. “The kids fought back, showed a little bit of resilience. Most of the mistakes we made were small stuff, like spacing and understanding better what we’re trying to do schematically.”
Jackson, who said the Devils’ defensive unit suffered through the same minor mistakes as the offense, said he was most pleased with the defensive play of William Bradley and Jaylan Brown.
“It was about the same on defense,” he explained. “We’re going to make a couple of personnel changes that should put us in a better position to win a game.”
The ECHS coach, who led Aliceville to the state Class 2A title game last year, said the jamboree contest has already been relegated to the “old news” category.
“Right now, we’re still 0-0,” he pointed out. “We’ve put that game behind us and we’re full-bore Wilcox Central (ECHS’s opponent in Friday’s home game). We’re close; it’s just a matter of doing the small stuff to get over the hump.”