Class 4A powerhouse Andalusia rolled past Escambia County High by a 41-0 margin last Friday, September 22, but first-year Blue Devils head coach Rico Jackson said there was a tremendous difference in that game and the 41-8 loss the team suffered two weeks ago to another 4A juggernaut, UMS-Wright.
“I thought we competed (against Andalusia), which we didn’t do against UMS,” Jackson said of a game in which fumble-prone ECHS could never gain a toehold. “It was unbelievable how we just couldn’t hold on to the ball; you can’t beat anybody with six turnovers. We would have lost last week (a 26-8 win over Monroe County) if we had done that.”
Jackson said his defensive unit played well, especially during the early stages of the contest, which marked the second time in three weeks ECHS had played the top or number-two team in the state. But, he added, the inability of the offense to maintain possession of the ball was a major factor in the one-sided score.
“We would make negative plays, and the defense got tired,” he said. “They were flying all around, especially in the first quarter, but they had been out there for long time, giving it all they’ve got.”
He cited the effort of two players, one of whom had to leave the game with an injury, on the defensive side of the ball but pointed out that the inability to hang onto the ball left the defensive unit on the field for the majority of the game.
“Brandon Cummings played pretty well until he got hurt,” said Jackson. “Jamarius Lewis had a good game, too. But we didn’t have but 30 snaps on offense, and the defense had about 65, and you can’t survive like that. I really can’t judge the offense. When you don’t get but 30 snaps, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The loss left ECHS with a 2-2 mark (1-2 in Region 1 play), but Jackson said he still feels the team could earn its first playoff spot in seven years if the players will continue to compete as they did against Andalusia. The Blue Devils are currently in a three-way fight with Satsuma and W.S. Neal for the region’s fourth postseason spot. (Andalusia, UMS-Wright and Thomasville are considered shoo-ins for playoff berths.)
“Right now, we’re just focusing on getting a W, getting back on track,” the ECHS coach said. “The playoffs are still there, but we need to take care of some things. That Monroe County game was huge. If we beat Satsuma and Neal, we’re in. Then, if we can beat Thomasville, that would just solidify it. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”
ECHS will host a strong Class 3A Hillcrest-Evergreen squad in Friday’s homecoming game. The Jaguars are 3-1, with wins over Linden, Flomaton and Clarke County. Their only loss was an 18-15 setback to sixth-ranked (Class 3A) T.R. Miller.
Jackson hopes the combination of rivalry and homecoming, along with an increased chance of a winning record, will result in another win.
“I’ve never played the number-one and number-two teams in the state within three weeks of each other,” he said. “Hillcrest Evergreen’s coming in this week, and they’re going be ranked in 3A. I’m in no way demeaning Hillcrest, but they are not as complete as Andalusia. They’ll still be pretty good but they won’t be Andalusia. It’s a rival game and it’s homecoming, so I’m expecting us to play well.”