Blue Devils to host Hillcrest-Evergreen in Friday’s home opener
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County High School Head Football Coach Rico Jackson knew this year’s team would be better than last year’s 2-8 squad. He just didn’t realize how quickly and how drastically the improvement would come.
“It’s obvious that we’re better, and that we’re improving even faster than we thought,” Jackson said after ECHS improved to 3-0 (including a preseason victory over T.R. Miller) with a 54-0 win over Monroe County last Friday, September 7. “We did some good things, and the kids were physical. It was a good game, and I’m proud of — and proud for — our kids.”
The improvement has been marked and obvious through 2018’s first two regular season games, both wins, which represents the school’s first 2-0 regular season start since 2010. The Devils have outscored their two opponents 96-0. (Last year’s team scored only 120 points all season.)
Friday’s points total marked the first time the Blue Devils scored 50 points or more in a game since 2010, when they defeated W.S. Neal 60-0 in the season’s fourth contest.
The early Class 4A, Region 1 win also gave the local team a leg up in league standings, as Escambia is tied with UMS-Wright, Williamson and Hillcrest-Evergreen for first place after the first weekend of region competition.
ECHS jumped out to an early lead against Monroe’s Tigers and never looked back. Quarterback Jordaun Patterson passed to Lue Williams for a score, then Dmitri Wiggins and Malik Brown took advantage of solid line blocking and ran for touchdowns as the Devils went up 20-0 in the first period.
“We did some good things on offense,” Jackson agreed. “Our kids were physical. I thought we ran the ball well and our quarterback managed the offense well. We lost two fumbles, so we’ll have to work on that, but overall we did pretty well.”
The second-year ECHS coach was able to empty his bench in the second half, and several younger players contributed to the one-sided win, including sophomore Tyson Moore, who ran for three touchdowns. “Tyson played really well; I’m proud of him,” Jackson said.
The Devils’ defense continued its aggressive play, stuffing most everything the Tigers tried. Among the unit’s leaders was Deondre Freeman, who sacked the Monroe quarterback twice.
“Our defense flew around and played really physical,” Jackson said. “They did a really good job of playing together. All our defensive guys played well; Deondre just kind of stood out.”
Escambia, which received 3 points in the Alabama Sports Writers Association Top 10 balloting last week, will need a similar effort this week.
Defending Class 3A state champ Hillcrest-Evergreen, now in ECHS’s region, went into last week’s action as the state’s third-ranked team and posted a 62-20 win over W.S. Neal. The Jaguars will travel to Atmore on Friday for ECHS’s home opener.
Jackson said his team should be ready. He noted that his players are gaining confidence in themselves and won’t be awed by the Hillcrest team.
“We’re feeling pretty good about it,” he said. “As far as it being our first real test, they’re all tests to me. We feel like we’ve put a good game plan together, and I know we’ll compete Friday night. We’re just going to play traditional football.
“We’ve got to play together; we’ve got to believe. We’re just going to keep playing hard and let the chips fall where they may.”
Photo courtesy of Monroe Journal