Going into Escambia County High’s September 8 contest against top-ranked (Class 4A) UMS-Wright, Rico Jackson felt like he and his staff had a solid game plan that, if well executed, would allow the Blue Devils to at least give the Bulldogs a run for their money.
The execution part never materialized, though, and the ECHS squad suffered a 41-8 defeat for its first setback of the young season.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t compete like I felt we should have,” the first-year Blue Devils coach said of the contest. “We didn’t execute; we were intimidated. In order to compete with a team like that, you can’t be intimidated.”
The Bulldogs piled up 396 yards of offense, while ECHS managed just 130. UMS-Wright jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead, added two more scores in the third period, then turned things over to their younger players.
The Blue Devils finally scored when Malik Brown carried the ball into the end zone in the fourth period and Kuron Frye ran for the 2-point conversion to avoid a shutout. That was the team’s only bright spot on the night, according to Jackson.
UMS-Wright scored on the ground and through the air. The Bulldogs, now 3-0, had four rushing touchdowns, including scampers of 51 and 47 yards, and completed 7-of-11 passes for 88 yards, including a 41-yard scoring toss.
“I really felt like we would compete, but we didn’t,” Jackson said. “There were no real bright spots, on offense or defense. We were like deer in the headlights. We didn’t line up right, and when it came time to make the plays, we didn’t and they did.”
He admitted that the top-ranked UMS team probably would have won the game anyway, but felt that the lack of resistance on the part of the ECHS team was the major factor in the final score.
“It doesn’t matter if the team we’re playing is Number 1 or Number 50,” he pointed out. “Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got a good football team, but we do, too. If we had given the effort that we gave against Wilcox (Central, in an 8-0 season-opening win), I don’t feel like we would have won the game, but it would have been closer. But we didn’t even bring that effort over.”
Jackson and his coaching staff will begrudgingly shoulder the blame for the team’s initial loss, but would not make that a habit.
“We’ll chalk this one up to us coaches not having them ready,” he said. “We’ll try to do better. I’m not too keen on taking a whole bunch of them, but we will take this one. I can deal with a loss if we give it everything we’ve got, but we didn’t do that last week.”
He promised that this week’s preparations for Friday’s road game at region foe Monroe County would be “spirited,” with several players being given a chance to step up and grab a starting spot.
“Now we have to get back to the drawing board and find the guys who want to compete,” said Jackson. “We have a chance go 1-1 in the region, so the Monroe game is a huge game if you’re talking about playoffs. As a coaching staff, we’re going to have them better prepared; we’re going to have them where they can compete. We’re going to try to push forward and get better.”