Familiar problem costs Devils in Satsuma loss

The most famous line uttered by comic strip possum Pogo is, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Throw in a touch of Greek mythology, and you have a synopsis of Escambia County High School’s first six football games.

The Blue Devils played well against Satsuma last Friday (October 6), but again proved to be their own worst enemy. The Gators were able to exploit ECHS’s most vulnerable area and break open a close game with two final-period touchdowns that secured a 30-14 win in a crucial Class 4A, Region 1 matchup.

“Turnovers are our Achilles heel,” said Escambia County head coach Rico Jackson. “We are going to work on them and try and eliminate them. We’re competing well, but we’re averaging five turnovers a game lately, and when you make five turnovers against anybody …”

The two teams, fighting with W.S. Neal for the region’s fourth playoff spot, were knotted at 14 as the final period began. Escambia High’s fifth turnover proved devastating, though, as it not only led to the go-ahead Satsuma touchdown but also seemed to break the spirit of the ECHS squad.

“They went up 22-14, but we were on their 15, going in to tie the game, when we threw an interception,” he said. “The kid from Satsuma made an unbelievable play; he actually jumped over our receiver to pick the ball off. The last touchdown they scored, we sort of conceded, which I wasn’t happy about. There were 4 minutes left in the game, and if we could have stopped them we would have gotten the ball back, but we just kind of lay down.”

A similar situation arose early in the game, when it seemed ECHS was poised to pull in front.

“It looked like were going in to take the lead in the first quarter, but we fumbled at their 10-yard line,” he recalled.

Demetrion Barnes and William Bradley each scored a touchdown for the Devils, who dropped to 2-4 overall. Jackson praised Jordaun Patterson for “a phenomenal game at quarterback and cornerback” despite the three interceptions he suffered, each of which was due to a fine effort on Satsuma’s part, and said Malik Brown also played well.

The ECHS coach agreed that the effort to rebuild the school’s football program was comparable to the burden borne by another figure of Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was forced to roll a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down each time he neared the top.

“It’s hard, man, it’s hard,” he said of the struggle he and his staff faces. “We’re getting there, but we have to learn to get over the hump. I can tell from the game film that we’re light years from where we were, but it takes a lot to rebuild. We have to remind ourselves that we’re getting better, that we’ve got to keep pushing. The kids are starting to understand that.”

ECHS will host region powerhouse Thomasville this week. Jackson said he expects another good effort and hopes to catch the Tigers, who fell by a 38-28 score to Andalusia last week for their first loss, looking ahead.

“We’re breaking down the game film, trying to see what we can do,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, though; we’re going to play hard. We’ve just got to cut the turnovers down.”

Heading into Friday’s play, Andalusia (4-0 in region play, 6-1 overall) is at the top of region standings. UMS-Wright and Thomasville (both 2-1, 5-1) are tied with W.S. Neal (2-1, 3-3) for second place, while Satsuma (1-2, 2-4), ECHS (1-3, 2-4) and Monroe County (0-4, 2-4) fill the second tier.