By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Since Escambia County High’s football team faced an opponent called Hurricanes last Friday, September 28, it seemed fitting that a storm of controversy surrounded the 28-14 ECHS loss.
“It was an adventurous game; that’s all I can say about that,” Coach Rico Jackson said when asked about the questionable penalties that cost his team 2 touchdowns and the creative ball placement that cost his defense at least 2 third-down stops. “We’ve just got to learn to fight through that stuff. We have to put that behind us and play better as a team; [the coaching staff] has got to coach better.”
Jackson said the key to the non-region loss was something else, however.
“We knew going in that Flomaton had a good team, and they made the plays when it was time for them to make the plays,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to make the plays when it’s time. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and try to get better. We’ll try to flush this one and get ready for this week.”
The game was a historic one, especially for the Flomaton squad, as the win was the school’s first-ever over ECHS. The 28-point output represented the most points the Hurricanes have ever scored against Escambia County.
According to alabamahighschoolfootballhistory.com, the cross-county rivals, who twice played to a 0-0 deadlock and once tied 6-6, began playing each other in 1927 and — except for 1950, 1957, 1959 and 1960 — met on the gridiron every year through 1966. The series came to an abrupt halt after that and was not renewed until last week.
Official stats were not available Monday. Jackson said that, although he wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall performance, he saw some bright spots in the setback.
“Our offensive line played really well,” said Jackson. “Chyrelle Black [who started the season at center but now plays right guard] had a real good game, and this was the line’s best game of the year as a unit.”
He added that senior quarterback Jordaun Patterson also had a good game.
“He gave us opportunities to make plays,” Jackson said. “We just didn’t convert them.”
The ECHS defensive unit had another good game overall, but again played better in the second half than the first. The tenacity and toughness of Flomaton quarterback Da’Quan Johnson also played a part in the defensive effort.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to in the first half,” said Jackson. “We cleaned some things up at halftime and played well in the second half. I hate it when the kids play so hard and things don’t go their way. But that No. 7 [Johnson] took some good licks and kept getting up.”
Cries of discontent were heard throughout a packed Herbert Barnes Stadium as officials kept the yellow flags flying, with most of the penalties against ECHS, which had only 4 penalties in a win over W.S. Neal the previous week.
No penalty was called, however, when Devils defender Dmitri Wiggins suffered a mild concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit from a Flomaton player.
“He was through after that,” Jackson said of one of his key defensive players. “He’s now going through the concussion protocol, and it will be up to his primary care physician when he can play again.”
The Blue Devils, now 3-2 overall, still have a 2-1 mark in Class 4A, Region 1 play. They will try to better that mark this week when they travel to play Clarke County, which has played better than its record indicates.
The Bulldogs are 1-3, with a win over W.S. Neal and losses to Jackson, UMS-Wright, Williamson and Birmingham’s Jackson-Olin. The team’s defense has allowed just 98 points (35 of them against top-ranked UMS-Wright) but has scored only 59, with all but 13 of those coming in the win over Neal.
“Clarke’s record is not indicative of how good they are,” the ECHS coach warned. “We are going to have our hands full. They have had some injuries, and all those players will be back this week. We’re going to have to focus and play hard to win this one.”
News photo by Ditto Gorme